Conservative Legislative Conference Protest

Teachers Marilyn Duerbeck, of Phoenix, left, and Kelley Fisher of Sun City, Ariz. hold a sign outside a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Progressive groups filed a lawsuit arguing that Arizona lawmakers attending a conservative policy conference are violating the state’s open meetings law.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the People's Law Firm filed the lawsuit with a Maricopa County Court on Wednesday against the Arizona State Legislature. 

The lawsuit alleges that Arizona Republicans attending the American Legislative Exchange Council’s States and Nation Policy Summit this week in Scottsdale make up quorums on key legislative committees, and that their attendance at the conference “amount to secret decision-making by a public body.” The conference was also met with protests from liberal activists.

Just by attending lawmakers are breaking the law, the lawsuit, which doesn’t name any specific lawmakers, alleges. 

“The proposed closed-door meetings, during which a quorum of five legislative committees will be secretly deliberating matters of public policy, violates Arizona’s Open Meeting Law on its face,” the lawsuit says.

Dominic Renfrey, advocacy program manager for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the groups bringing the lawsuit – activist groups Puente, Mijente, Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, and Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro – are seeking transparency, but also attacked ALEC in a statement, saying minority communities are negatively impacted by the group.

“ALEC’s pay-to-play model strikes at the very heart of democratic law-making,” he said. “Unsurprisingly, its people of color and those on the margins that suffer the most from ALEC’s attacks.” 

An Arizona Senate GOP spokesperson said the caucus would not comment at this time. 

ALEC often drafts conservative-leaning “model bills” on issues ranging from tax reform and budget issues to criminal justice reform and occupational licensing that are sometimes introduced and adopted by legislatures in multiple states.

Part of the civil asset forfeiture reforms Gov. Doug Ducey signed in 2017 “closely mirror” that of ALEC’s model legislation, the group said at the time. Arizona lawmakers also passed a universal Education Savings Account program that ALEC touted, but the program was later denied expansion by voters.

Regional Editor

Derek Draplin is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as an opinion producer at Forbes, and as a reporter at Michigan Capitol Confidential and The Detroit News. He’s also an editor at The Daily Caller.