How Can Conservatives Move Their States Forward? Lawmakers Convene in Arizona to Share Their Ideas

This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will host the States and Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The three-day conference will give hundreds of stakeholders — including many state legislators and local government leaders — the chance to exchange ideas and work together to find policy solutions for the most pressing issues facing the country.

The summit will be different than most policy conferences. Though there will be several big-name speakers (including Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Maine Governor Paul LePage and former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn), a large part of the ALEC conference will be focused on workshops discussing the nitty-gritty details of policymaking.

Attendees may assign themselves to taskforces based on specific policy issues, with each breaking into subcommittees and working groups to focus on more specific topics.

“Typically, state lawmakers fall into two camps — some want to do the issues they’re working on in their states… but some do the opposite,” ALEC’s Ben Wilterdink told Opportunity Lives. “Maybe they’re working on health care in their state and now want to learn about taxes.”

Wilterdink, a policy analyst who will direct the summit’s task force on commerce, insurance and economic development, said the meeting will be a great opportunity for lawmakers to share their successes and challenges and to learn from each other to craft better policies.

As startups continue to reinvent the way we live our daily lives, it will be important for state and local governments to help, not hinder, innovation

Likely the biggest issue for his task force will be the “sharing economy,” Wilterdink said. As startups continue to reinvent the way we live our daily lives, it will be important for state and local governments to help, not hinder, innovation.

At the moment, many state governments are wrestling with the issue of employer classification.  Uber, for example, is facing widespread legal challenges because its drivers are currently classified as independent contractors, and therefore not subject to the full range of tax and labor laws.

Yet Uber drivers and other similar workers do not fit neatly under the general “employee” classification either, since they typically make their own hours and maintain a level of independence in the way they carry out their jobs.

“Quite frankly, if Uber had to count all of those people as employees, I don’t know if their model could work,” said Wilterdink. “I don’t think we should make a policy of implementing regulations that lock people out of the labor market.” He hopes the task force will be able to form policy principles that encourage growth in new startups while ensuring that these workers are adequately protected.

Some experts have called for a new type of classification that is better suited for today’s economy, and Wilterdink expects to discuss the tax implications of some of these proposals as well as the issue of insurance provided by transportation network companies.

Besides being a catalyst for collaboration and learning among state lawmakers, the summit is also an opportunity for ALEC to better understand lawmakers’ priorities for the coming year so that the organization can provide support and connections when needed.

Videos of the major speeches will be posted on ALEC’s Youtube page when the summit concludes.

Daniel Huizinga is a columnist for Opportunity Lives covering business and politics. Follow him on Twitter @HuizingaDaniel.