Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the south, might seem like an awkward fit for the 45th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) – but he says they have much in common.
Alec began its conference in New Orleans on Wednesday, bringing its usual agenda of pro-privatization, pro-fossil fuel and anti-union legislation in tow.
The rightwing organization links corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers from across the country to collectively craft “model” legislation that representatives are then encouraged to take back to their home states and introduce as their own.
Among those addressing the gathering Wednesday was Edwards, the only Democrat to hold statewide office in the deep red state.
The technically non-partisan Alec skews heavily Republican – but Edwards was right at home. Not only is Edwards an Alec alumni from his time as a state legislator, he’s also been a torchbearer for Alec-sponsored legislation as governor, having signed at least three bills the group takes credit for inspiring.
“You might think I’m not the most likely person to be speaking here today, but I think you’re going to find out that a lot of what you’re about, and a lot of what we’re doing here in Louisiana, we have in common,” Edwards told the convention.
One of those Alec-sponsored bills signed by Edwards is legislation that ratchets up criminal penalties for causing damage to so called “critical infrastructure”, which in Louisiana includes oil pipelines.
That’s a big deal to environmental activists here who see the bill, which several other states have adopted, as a play to crack down on the kind of sustained demonstration that occurred at Standing Rock in 2016.
“They want to make the penalty for civil disobedience one…