The beginning of the year brought with it a new decade, one we all hope will be filled with opportunity and success for us all. Contrary to what some of the folks currently out on the hustings say, government cannot guarantee those outcomes, but it can do a lot to make sure the table is set properly so that we, the American people, can achieve them.
Defining decisions will be made in the coming months - not just in Washington, but in state capitals from coast to coast. In many places, state legislators are already hard at work developing and enacting policies that will guide the future of our country. They will put things in motion that will hopefully lift the living standards and opportunities available to our children and our children’s children. That’s what they do. It’s why many of them sought an elective office in the first place.
This imperative was clearly visible at our most recent national meeting and the various learning engagements we’ve conducted throughout the country over the last year. Reflecting on what’s been accomplished in just the last year - criminal justice reform, changes to tax policy that benefits families and workers and has helped spark an amazing period of job creation, and education reforms that continue to emphasize quality, excellence, and the interests of parents and children over the priorities of a bureaucratic model created in the 19th century - demonstrate that what American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) members are doing in the states is working.
Tracing back where these policy successes began, one need look no further than the ALEC model policy on each of these issues as they were used as an impetus towards positive change and reform. The US/Mexico/Canada Free Trade agreement that replaced NAFTA, the pension overhaul and recent data privacy legislation only scratch the surface of things that began as state efforts led by the free-market movement.
Another critical success, the FIRST STEP Act, which began in the states, continues to gather momentum in the fight to ensure criminal justice reform continues and that those who commit minor and victimless crimes receive appropriate, fair punishment rather than some draconian sentence out of a French novel. The next phase of this battle is sure to be exciting because of the lives that may be improved as a result.
At the ALEC Annual Meeting and States & Nation Policy Summit, thousands of state legislators, local government leaders, and stakeholders gathered to share valuable information and insight as to how to solve today’s policy challenges. ALEC held 30 Academies and issue briefings last year, which provide state legislators continuing education and a leg up in the world of policy making. ALEC taught legislators about wind farms, natural gas facilities, nuclear power plants, and much more.
We’re proud of our record as we are proud of our new program for experiential learning, now offered at every ALEC event to promote continuing legislator education. At the Annual Meeting, dozens of ALEC legislators toured the Community First Tiny Home Village in Austin, Texas, and learned how to fight homelessness in their states. And every legislator walked away learning how homelessness can be addressed without a bloated and ineffective government program.
Our shared commitment to individual liberty and free enterprise will always take this country forward to prosperity. Those who offer a vision of the future based on collectivism and even greater government control of our lives, our communities and our families are made uneasy by our success. They slapped a target on our back that we wear with pride as a testament to our continuing success.
It’s been difficult, but we will continue to forge ahead. Economic liberty, equal justice under law, job creation, education reform and the other issues on which we focus demand it. Brighter days are ahead for America because of the committed state legislators who stand up for these policies and the values inherent in them against who would just as soon shut down the debate because they know they can’t win the argument.
Our role as a convener of idea summits and as a source of energy in the policymaking arena provides both hope and a reason to make 2020 an even more innovative, solutions-based and successful year.
Nelson is the chief executive office of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization bringing state legislators and stakeholders together to develop public policy beneficial to the free market and individual liberty.