With a state budget nearly a month overdue, several Republican lawmakers headed to California this week to attend a conference with close ties to some of the nation’s largest corporations.
At least three of the lawmakers will have their $700 registration costs for the American Legislative Exchange Council and a $104 per diem paid for by taxpayers, according to staff in the N.C. General Assembly’s legislative services division.
N.C House Speaker Tim Moore, state Sen. David Curtis, of Lincoln County, and state Rep. Hugh Blackwell, of Burke County, all requested reimbursement from the legislature.
The lawmakers will not receive the $104 per diem they generally get for being in session, and instead will get the travel per diem, which is the same amount.
It’s not all that unusual for the state legislature to pitch in for conferences like ALEC, which promotes free markets and limited government, or another annual conference by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
ALEC, however, has come under criticism in recent years, for its close ties to some of the nation’s largest corporations, with questions raised about the level of corporate influence making its way into Congress and state capitals through pieces of model legislation pushed by the group. Several high-profile companies have left ALEC, including Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Google and Microsoft.
There are other lawmakers from North Carolina attending the event in addition to the trio who will be reimbursed by the state, though they may be paying for the conference themselves or through campaign funds.
WRAL reported that state Sen. Bob Rucho, of Mecklenburg County, and the following House GOP members are headed to San Diego for the ALEC conference: state Reps. Mark Brody of Union County; John Fraley, of Iredell County Craig Horn of Union County; George Robinson of Caldwell County Stephen Ross of Alamance County; Jason Saine of Lincoln County; Sarah Stevens of Surry County.
The ALEC schedule lists Saine as a panelist for a discussion Friday about technology creating efficiencies in government.