Alberta Darling

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Alberta Darling is a Republican State Senator representing Wisconsin's 8th District (River Hills) as of 2012.

An ALEC Wisconsin Foot Soldier

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On May 31, 2011, ALEC members Sen. Alberta Darling, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, and former Sen. Randy Hopper (along with Sen. Luther Olsen, who has not been identified as an ALEC task force or other member), introduced a motion to the Wisconsin budget bill to give a big tax break to a big tobacco company. As part of that effort, they voted to convert the tax on moist tobacco products from a price-based tax to a weight-base tax. Moist tobacco products, like Skoal, Copenhagen, and a new candy-flavored tobacco pouch called "Snus," would benefit from this tax break. The tax change would lower the price of the smokeless products that target kids with packaging and candy flavors.

Their proposal mirrors ALEC's Resolution on the Enhancement of Economic Neutrality, Commercial Efficiency, and Fairness in the Taxation of Moist Smokeless Tobacco (MST) Products. Both Reynolds Tobacco and Altria/Phillip Morris sit on ALEC's governing private sector board and have long been promoters and supporters of the organization. ALEC sent a letter to Governor Walker in support of the measure, but he used his line-item veto to strike the tax break from the budget bill. [1]

Darling is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force. She used $200 in taxpayer funds to pay her ALEC membership dues, according to One Wisconsin Now. [2] Sen. Darling is an alternate on the ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Sen. Alberta Darling co-sponsored 9 bills that reflect ALEC models, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.


Darling Inserts ALEC "Model Language" into Budget to Benefit Altria /Phillip Morris

In June 2010, late in the debate over the Wisconsin state budget, Darling and five other Republican legislators in the Joint Finance Committee "sponsored a proposal to lower the overall price of moist snuff [tobacco] like Copenhagen and Skoal. Specifically, the provision would have altered the tax on smokeless tobacco products from one based on the price of the tobacco to one based on weight," according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. [3] The change in taxation was nearly identical to a proposal put forth in an ALEC "model bill."

According to the Journal-Sentinel, "The measure was pushed by Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, which would have benefited from it because it manufactures smokeless tobacco products that are far lighter than those of other manufacturers." [3] Darling was Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee that passed the proposal. [4] Days after she became Chair, Altria / Phillip Morris USA gave Darling a $1000 contribution. [5]

Tobacco opponents argued that the tax change would make many smokeless tobacco products less expensive, making it more appealing to children. Smokeless tobacco use remained steady or increased in recent years, even as smoking rates had declined. "Perhaps this increase is due to the fact that many smokeless tobacco products are fruit flavored and are sometimes packaged to look similar to candy - a marketing tactic obviously aimed at kids," wrote Gail Sumi of the American Cancer Society and Maureen Busalacchi of Smokefree Wisconsin in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel op-ed. [6]

Governor Scott Walker vetoed the proposed change to the tobacco tax, citing the threat it posed to the health of Wisconsin children. [7]

According to the Journal-Sentinel, "On the moist tobacco proposal, an ALEC staffer even wrote to the governor to ask him not to veto the item after it was inserted in the budget bill.

"The amendment will create a fairer tax system that reduces market distortions and encourages fiscal stability," wrote Courtney O'Brien, director of the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development & Public Safety and Elections Task Forces at ALEC. [3]

Sen. Darling and Tax Policy

Sen. Darling is an alternate on the ALEC Tax & Fiscal Policy Task Force. She introduced or co-sponsored the following bills in the 2011 session: [8]

  • Business expansion within a municipality: property tax credit created, conditions set............SB-60
  • Green data center: income and franchise tax credits created............AB-61 / SB-31
  • Jobs tax credit: refund date modified............SB-5

Sen. Darling and Education

Sen. Darling introduced or co-sponsored the following bills in the 2011 session:[8]

  • Charter School Authorizing Board created and charter school provisions revised re virtual charter school cap on pupils, health insurance and WRS participation for employees, teacher license, and contracts; CESA may establish an independent charter school; DPI duties; general school aid modified............AB-51 / SB-22 *
  • City-owned property used for school purposes: Milwaukee Common Council may sell or lease unused or underused property, proceeds deposited in school operations fund............AB-37 / SB-20
  • MPS prohibited from placing residency requirements on its teachers............AB-44/SB-34
  • Public education law revisions re pupil expulsion, teacher evaluations, SAGE contracts, special education services, pupil transportation costs, school libraries, MPS teaching days, law enforcement records re conduct of a pupil, credits for sports re WIAA, and tax levy............SB-95-

Support for Wisconsin Act 10's Collective Bargaining Limits

Sen. Darling supported Governor Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill (Act 10) that curtailed collective bargaining for public employees.

Committees

Senate Standing Committees:

  • Committee on Economic Development and Veterans and Military Affairs
  • Committee on Education
  • Committee on Finance (Chair)

Joint Committees:

  • Joint Legislative Audit Committee
  • Joint Committee on Employment Relations
  • Joint Committee on Finance (Co-Chair)
  • Joint Legislative Council

Legislative Council Study Committees:

  • Special Committee on Building Wisconsin's Workforce
  • Special Committee on Child Welfare Provider Rate Implementation
  • Special Committee on Public Assistance Program Integrity (Chair)
  • Special Committee on Health Care Reform Implementation (Co-Chair)

[4]

History

Senator Darling was elected to the State Assembly in a May 1990 special election and was reelected in November 1990. She was elected to the State Senate in 1992 and was reelected in 1996, 2000,2004 and most recently in 2008. [9]

References

  1. ALEC Exposed in Wisconsin: The Hijacking of a State, ALEC Exposed, May 2012
  2. Scot Ross, "One Wisconsin Now Exclusive: WI Senators Paying Corporate ALEC Membership with Tax Dollars, One Wisconsin Now website, May 8, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Dan Bice, Liberal organization links Wisconsin bills to Koch-funded group, Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel, July 13, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 2011-2012 Committee Assignments, Alberta Darling legislative website, accessed Aug 1, 2011.
  5. Maplight.org, Alberta Darling / Altria contributions, Nov. 9 2010, accessed Aug 1, 2011.
  6. Gail Sumi and Maureen Busalacchi, Veto Tax Break for Big Tobacco (op-ed), Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, June 21, 2011, accessed Aug 1, 2011.
  7. Scott Bauer, Walker to Veto Tax Change on Tobacco, Drawing Praise from Health Groups, Associated Press / Capitol Times, June 24, 2011.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Alberta Darling bills 2011, Wisconsin legislature website, accessed Aug 1, 2011.
  9. Alberta Darling website, accessed Aug. 1, 2011.