Josh Rosenau's picture

Blocking Bad Bills

According to a report last week, leaked documents hint at a coming assault on education and the environment in state legislatures:

Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes … school voucher schemes to counter public education, … and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

These proposals are fairly run-of-the-mill, but these documents are notable for revealing the coordinated networks that push such bills through legislatures.

We know that the Discovery Institute promotes model legislation opening the door to creationism in schools, and that similar bills have become law in two states. There’s radical religious right groups across the country have joined in advocating for that model legislation, but no one has revealed how coordinated those efforts might be. We only see the effect, such as the dozen anti-evolution and anti-climate education bills filed just last year (six of them variants of the Discovery Institute’s model). We expect at least as many bills in the legislative sessions starting in January.

Next Wednesday, December 18, NCSE will run an on-line training to help you learn how to be an effective advocate in legislatures and other halls of power.

Stopping such bills requires the committed work of local citizens, reaching out to lawmakers and finding ways to block or rework these bills. To see the power of citizen lobbying, look at the video above, where a crowd of Montanans turned up to stop an anti-science bill last spring, and how effectively they stopped that bill in its tracks by turning up and speaking powerfully against the bill. But there’s more to lobbying than public hearings, and we’ll cover that in the training.

Dena SherVic Hutchison

I’ll be leading the training, with co-panelists Dena Sher of the ACLU (and previously Americans United for Separation of Church and State), and Vic Hutchison of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. It should be a grand time, and I hope you’ll register and attend.

And if you missed our first on-line training, you can watch the video and download the slides I showed from the Taking Action part of the NCSE website.