| The following press release is from Progress Virginia. Why would lawmakers vote to keep the public from knowing who they're taking money and gifts from? It's hard to imagine a GOOD reason for wanting to hide that information.
SB1143 would increase disclosure over legislative junkets, ALEC meetings
Richmond, VA - This morning, members of the Virginia Senate Rules Committee voted to pass by indefinitely SB1143, which would increase disclosure over taxpayer-funded legislative junkets. Specifically, legislators would no longer be able to use public funds to attend conferences if the conference agenda and materials are not available to the public. Senators Louise Lucas and Janet Howell voted no on the motion to pass by indefinitely.
Senator Steve Martin, who has spent over $22,000 of public funds to attend American Legislative Exchange Council conferences (an organization for which he serves as State Chair), made the motion to kill the bill.
Anna Scholl, Executive Director of ProgressVA, commented on the vote. "Transparency and disclosure have always been the bottom line of Virginia government. It's disappointing so many Senators would refuse to increase disclosure over how public funds are being spent. Constituents should absolutely be able to find out what's going on behind closed doors, especially when our tax dollars are subsidizing the meeting."
According to a 2012 report from ProgressVA, legislators have spent over $230,000 of taxpayer funds attending American Legislative Exchange Council conferences. Those meetings, at which legislators meet with lobbyists to draft and vote on model legislation, are closed to the public. ALEC declines to release task force agendas and materials to the public. Those materials are also technically exempt from Virginia's Freedom of Information Act, under the "working papers" exemption.
Five ALEC members sit on the Senate Rules Committee and have spent taxpayer dollars to attend their conferences. All five voted to kill SB1143.
- Senator Ryan McDougle: Member, ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Spent $701 of public funds on ALEC meetings
- Senator Steve Martin: ALEC State Chair. Spent $22,061 of public funds on ALEC meetings
- Senator Steve Newman: Member, ALEC Education Task Force. Spent $7627 of public funds on ALEC meetings
- Senator Frank Ruff: Member, ALEC Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force. Spent $17,439 of public funds on ALEC meetings
- Senator Frank Wagner: Member, ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force. Spent $6,585 of public funds on ALEC meetings.
Source: ProgressVA 2012 ALEC in Virginia report. www.progressva.org/alec