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Dozens of Kan. GOP lawmakers to attend ALEC event

Published on -7/29/2013, 2:04 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Republican leaders in the Kansas House and Senate are among more than two dozen state lawmakers who plan to participate in the national convention of an organization dedicated to anti-tax, free-market, low-regulation government.

House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell and Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita are national board members of the American Legislative Exchange Council and will lead the delegation to the Chicago convention that runs Aug. 7-9, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/18N0pwV) reported.

Jeff Russell, director of Legislative Administrative Services, said state policy allows a $100 subsidy of registration fees for each legislator, but only those lawmakers who serve in a leadership role in the conservative-minded ALEC will have other costs covered by taxpayers.

"I get a chance to talk with other representatives and senators from around the state and other states," said Rep. Ron Ryckman Sr., a Republican from Meade in southwest Kansas. "It's a chance to learn what other states are doing."

ALEC is a consortium of corporations and politicians that form private-public partnerships and promote limited government, federalism and free markets, according to its website. It brings corporations and legislators together and promotes model legislation with a conservative, low-regulation, anti-union agenda.

Critics contend ALEC is designed to promote big business interests for companies, such as Koch Industries in Wichita.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he planned to raise questions during a meeting Monday of legislative leaders about spending state money on ALEC, especially after the 2013 Legislature dropped membership in the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.

Kansas lawmakers who voted to drop support for those two organizations were among those requesting advance approval of the state subsidy for the ALEC convention, he said.

"There seems to be an inconsistency in public policy," Hensley said. "I think we need to look into this."

Veteran Kansas lobbyist Ron Hein said he was recruiting sponsors for the ALEC Kansas Night Dinner, which 29 Kansas legislators and as many as 70 other people are expected to attend. He said he was trying to get sponsorships ranging from $500 to $650 for the event, though the cost per participant might be closer to $100.

"That's kind of what they charge with dinner, reception, drinks, tips and taxes," said Hein, who has been working with the organization since 1989.

The list of keynote speakers in Chicago includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and economist Arthur Laffer.

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