Monday, June 7, 2010

Hey TN: Who’s Looking Out For You?

It seems Republicans in the Tennessee legislature are bending over backwards to do the corporate world’s bidding, none more so than Diane Black, who has gone to unprecedented lengths to make sure the ALEC-written anti-healthcare reform bill bypasses the committee process and makes its way to the floor. Something about sick Tennesseans no longer being denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions really burns people like Diane Black; guess she thinks free market fairy dust will help people like Demitrie Maralescu.

As I mentioned yesterday, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is the corporate lobby working to repeal healthcare reform across the land through state legislative efforts:
These state-based efforts to repeal reform may be supported and championed by the Tea Party movement (like the Ohio Liberty Council), but they’re being orchestrated and organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a “business-friendly conservative group that coordinates activity among statehouses.” The Council is currently pushing model legislation to protect “the rights of patients to pay directly for medical services” and prohibit the individual mandate. At least 35 states are using the legislation as a model for their own repeal efforts, including Ohio and Alabama.

ALEC is no fan of health reform or health, for that matter. “For years the tobacco industry has been one of ALEC’s chief underwriters” and has generally been used as a vehicle by which large corporations advance their agenda in state legislatures The National Resources Defense Council reports that “the tie that binds is money, and ALEC’s major underwriters have included the now-disgraced Enron Corporation, as well as the American Nuclear Energy Council, the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco, Chevron, Coors Brewing Company, Shell, Texaco, Chlorine Chemistry Council, Union Pacific Railroad, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Waste Management, Philip Morris Management Corporation, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and many other of the nation’s major corporations and trade associations.”

If ALEC succeeds in repealing health care reform, some corporations may benefit, but the residents who live in these states certainly won’t. As a new Center for American Progress Action Fund report concludes, thousands in Ohio, Alabama and the other states considering repeal would lose access to expanded Medicaid coverage and affordability subsidies.

Note to Demitrie Maralescu and everyone else for whom pre-existing conditions makes getting affordable health insurance an unreachable dream: if the Tennessee Legislature takes away the relief the Federal government just gave you, go ahead and thank Diane Black, the Tennessee Republican Party, a handful of Tennessee DINO’s, and most of all, the corporations at PhRMA who dominate ALEC.

A look at ALEC’s “model legislation” is an eye-opener: these boiler plate bills, crafted by corporations and sent down the conveyer belt to state houses via ALEC’s state chairmen (Hello, Rep. Curry Todd!) is a Tenther/free market freak show. Out with the minimum wage! Out with limits on ATM fees! In with charter schools! Out with the EPA enforcing the Clean Air Act! In with guns on campus! And, not surprisingly: Out with ACORN! Yes, state defunding of ACORN is here too. In fact, quite a few of these bills look familiar.

Meanwhile, considering dirty energy’s considerable presence in ALEC (Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and Peabody Energy have reps on their “private enterprise board”) I found this turn of events interesting. If bypassing the committee process is good enough for Diane Black to yank back healthcare reform, Sen. Andy Berke thinks it should be good enough to ban mountaintop removal mining:

In response to the move, Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga said he'll seek to revive the mountaintop mining bill (SB1398) through the same process on Saturday.

"If they don't want to use the committee system, then we should allow votes on overwhelmingly popular items like mountaintop removal," Berke said.

Ramsey said he doesn't see why the mountaintop removal bill should get a new hearing.

Of course he doesn’t!