National Dems Finally Paying Attention To State Policies

At the Plum Line today, Greg Sargent has a very useful update on what Democrats are finally doing nationally to compete with conservative groups like ALEC in providing state legislators with intellectual fodder and political messaging:

Some Dems have formed a group called the State Innovation Exchange, a coalition of lawmakers and operatives that is meant to go toe-to-toe with right wing state-focused groups such as the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.

Nick Rathod, the executive director of the State Innovation Exchange, tells me his group is examining new types of legislative templates that lawmakers can employ on the state level to move progressive ideas forward — just as ALEC does for conservative policies.

Rathod says his group is formulating a police reform bill that would create some form of state-level independent oversight agency, in hopes of capitalizing on the organizing energy unleashed by recent police killings. The group is also developing voting reform proposals that would expand voting access and flexibility, and proposals that would boost paid sick days, among other things. The group will encourage local Democrats to introduce such proposals in various states, where appropriate, in hopes of generating discussion and attention to them even in places where Republicans have control.

I’d add that the State Innovation Exchange, which calls itself “SIX,” is the product of a merger earlier this year of the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE), a group founded in 2012 to counter ALEC, and the Progressive States Network (originally known as the Progressive Legislative Action Network), a very self-consciously ideological group formed back in 2005. Before PLAN came along, about the only policy-oriented state-focused Democratic activity was by the DLC, which conducted message training and regularly published and updated a “playbook” of policy ideas for state elected officials and legislators (as it happens, I spent a lot of my time at the DLC on this little-noticed front). There’s a bit of a successor group to the DLC state and local network called the New DEAL (short for Developing Exceptional American Leaders), in which Martin O’Malley has been very active.

The renewed interest among Democrats in state policymaking (and elections, as noted in another part of Greg’s post) is grossly overdue. It will be difficult for them to match ALEC’s devilish efficiency, wherein lobbyists are invited in to write policy material and draft legislation at lavish events the same-self lobbyists sponsor. But better late than never.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.