Policy Group Drops Its Crime Bills Unit; Had Come under Liberal Criticism for Role in Drafting 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Article excerpt

Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the low-profile but high-impact force behind a wave of conservative-oriented legislative initiatives across the country, said Tuesday it was dropping the task force that helped produce some of its most contentious bills.

ALEC's work was in the national spotlight in recent days because it helped draft the language for the stand your ground self-defense law at the center of the legal battle in the racially charged fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Sharply criticized by liberal groups, ALEC has been called an idea factory that has written model bill language for state legislators on issues ranging from tougher voter ID standards and anti-immigration statutes to laws rejecting key parts of President Obama's new health care law. The group's critics have been targeting ALEC's corporate sponsors in a bid to undercut its financing.

ALEC National Chairman David Frizzell said in a statement Tuesday that the embattled conservative legislative organization would intensify its focus on economic issues, shelving its work on such issues as gun rights and voter-identification laws.

While we recognize there are other critical noneconomic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work, said Mr. Frizzell, who is also Republican majority whip in the Indiana state House of Representatives.

ALEC officials in recent days had attacked the pressure campaign, but Mr. Frizzell abruptly announced the group had eliminated its public safety and elections task force. The group has eight remaining task forces, including ones dealing with communications, foreign affairs and health care.

Never popular with liberal groups, ALEC had come under intense scrutiny after the Feb. 26 shooting death of the 17-year-old in Florida. The group helped draft Florida's stand your ground law, which allows citizens greater latitude in defending themselves in the face of perceived threats.

The law was cited as a factor in the original police decision not to charge neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon after a confrontation. Following weeks of national protests and calls for his arrest, Mr. …