Group aligned with conservatives, dissed by Democrats holds Nashville meeting

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A policy group that is often aligned with conservative Republicans and reviled by Democrats is meeting in Nashville this week.

Tennessee state lawmakers don’t just dream up the couple of thousand bills they collectively file each year. Some of them come from groups made up of lawmakers from across the country.

While much of the public doesn’t know the name ALEC–which is short for American Legislative Exchange Council–the group can have an influence on what bills Tennessee lawmakers sponsor.

“I learn things from the way other states have done it,” says state ALEC co-chair Bill Ketron, who is finishing out his final term before running for Rutherford County Mayor. “Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has perfected it?”

Bill Ketron (Photo: WKRN)

He’ll be at the policy arm of the ALEC convention for the next few days at Nashville’s Omni Hotel.

The gathering is where ALEC task forces look at things like civil justice reform and economic development, but for a lot of conservative Tennessee lawmakers like Ketron, a balanced federal budget amendment signed by the states is a priority.

“Once we have ratified 38 states, we can call for a constitutional convention to force congress into balancing the budget,” added Ketron.

Tennessee House Democrat Caucus Chair Mike Stewart sees ALEC in a much different light.

Mike Stewart (Photo: WKRN)

“ALEC, in many cases, interferes with the proper functioning of government. It basically is collecting all this money from gigantic corporations,” Rep. Stewart told News 2.

Stewart cites a failed virtual school bill costing taxpayers millions as an example.

“Often we see ALEC as supporting efforts to swipe taxpayer money for all klnds of ridiculous scheme like the TN virtual school,” he added.

Ketron says he doesn’t agree with everything ALEC promotes but defends it as a place where lawmakers get ideas.

Like most ALEC gatherings, some protesters are expected during the group’s three-day event in Nashville.