Copy, Paste, Legislate

Published — November 20, 2019

Why you should care about ‘model legislation’

(Illustration: Andrea Brunty / USA TODAY)

Introduction

Americans elect their state lawmakers to … make laws. 

But sometimes, a lawmaker introduces a bill in his or her own name that isn’t born of thoughtful deliberation or responses to constituent needs. 

Rather, the lawmaker offers up what’s known as “model legislation” — prefabricated bills often written by moneyed special interests that want government to help them achieve a political goal.

Interests that peddle model legislation represent all sorts of industries and causes, from car dealers to anti-smoking advocates to conservative business associations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). 

They bounce from statehouse to statehouse, lobbying legislators from Tallahassee, Florida, to Juneau, Alaska.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, purveyors of model legislation frequently ply politicians with campaign contributions and personal attention, making it more difficult for lawmakers to say no.

The Center for Public Integrity’s “Copy, Paste, Legislate” model legislation tracker — the latest feature of an ongoing collaboration with USA TODAY and the Arizona Republic — allows you to compare and contrast copycat bills for yourself.  

Find something odd? Have a tip or question? Let us know by emailing us.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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