ALEC's Stand Your Ground Law Passed in Texas in 2007
In 2007, Texas passed Senate Bill 378, better known as the “Castle Doctrine” or “Stand-Your-Ground” bill. Yesterday, Rep. Garnet Coleman - one of the 15 to vote against the law - promised to file legislation to amend the Texas law. The legislation was part of a nationwide effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its corporate co-chair, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and was listed as priority model legislation for ALEC’s 2007 legislative scorecard. (Note: At the bottom of this post is a complete side-by-side of the Florida law, the ALEC model bill, and Texas' SB 378).
The "Stand Your Ground" law was first passed in Florida in 2005. It then was declared an ALEC model bill, and has since been passed in at least 32 states since ALEC began shopping it around the country as a model bill. The law is currently under scrutiny for the role it’s playing as part of the defense of the shooting of 17-year old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Earlier this morning, MSNBC's Chuck Todd laid out the connection in a "deep dive" report on how the NRA and ALEC pushed the law to 32 states. Todd concluded with the following essential question:
"What is the crisis? Do we have a crisis about this, or is this about legislating the culture of gun ownership?"
You can watch Chuck Todd's segment here, courtesy of Media Matters:
As Todd details in his report, ALEC shopped the law across the country. Here is how it made it's way from Florida, to ALEC, to Texas:
In 2005, the Florida state legislature passed Senate Bill 436. The legislation contains three core elements: a castle doctrine section, a stand your ground section, and a civil immunity section. Two years after the Florida law passed, Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth named each of these sections when he laid out his bill in committee - as can be seen from the February 28, 2007 TX Senate Jurisprudence Committee video. The summary of the Florida law highlights these sections:
Authorizes person to use force, including deadly force, against intruder or attacker in dwelling, residence, or vehicle under specified circumstances; provides that person is justified in using deadly force under certain circumstances; provides immunity from criminal prosecution or civil action for using deadly force.
Florida’s SB 436 was signed into law by the state’s governor, Jeb Bush, on April 26, 2005. Barely five months later, SB 436 was transformed into a model bill for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The council’s Civil Justice Task Force adopted the “Castle Doctrine Act” at its annual meeting on August 4, 2005. The legislation won approval from the full ALEC Board of Directors in September 2005.
Florida’s legislation was walked through the legislative process, and then to ALEC, by a lobbyist from the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization which serves as a corporate co-chair for ALEC in 2011. As originally reported by the Center for Media and Democracy, and since picked up by many other news outlets including MSNBC (see above) and Mother Jones:
Florida Senator Durell Peadon, an ALEC member, introduced the law in his state and it passed in early 2005; the NRA was behind the bill and its lobbyist Marion Hammer reportedly" stared down legislators as they voted." After Governor Jeb Bush signed it into law, Hammer presented the bill to ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force (now known as the Public Safety and Elections Task Force) months later. As the Center for Media and Democracy has uncovered, the NRA boasted that "[h]er talk was well-received," and the corporations and state legislators on the Task Force voted unanimously to approve the bill as an ALEC model.
In 2007, ALEC identified the “Castle Doctrine Act” as one of its key model bills, listing it on ALEC's 2007 state legislative scorecard. The same year, Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth filed Senate Bill 378, and Texas State Representative Joe Driver filed House Bill 284 – the Castle Doctrine Act for Texas. The Texas NRA lobbyist, Tara Reilly-Mica, was one of the only people in the state that spoke in favor of the legislation before each committee; in 2007 the only itemized expense she reported for the entire year was for a basketball ticket and parking to a basketball game for Rep. Joe Driver, who sponsored the House legislation.
Texas Senate Bill 378 passed unanimously out of the Texas Senate on March 13, 2007. The bill passed out of the Texas House on March 20, 2007 (Record Vote 136) with only 15 House members voting against the bill: Reps. Lon Burnam, Garnet Coleman, Yvonne Davis, Dawnna Dukes, Harold Dutton, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez, Terri Hodge, Donna Howard, Barbara Mallory Caraway, Ruth Jones McClendon, Boris Miles, Joe Moreno, Elliott Naishtat and Senfronia Thompson. Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law on March 27, 2007. Yesterday, Rep. Garnet Coleman - one of the 15 to vote against the law - has promised to file legislation to amend the Texas law.
The following is a comparison of the three main components of the Castle Doctrine Act throughout its history – the castle doctrine section, the stand your ground section, and the civil immunity section. These three sections were carefully explained and identified when Sen. Wentworth laid out SB 378 during the Senate Jurisprudence Committee hearing on February 28, 2007. The text below is taken from Florida’s Senate Bill 436, ALEC’s “Castle Doctrine Act” model bill, and Texas’ Senate Bill 378.
In his column - "Lobbyists, Guns and Money" - the New York Times' Paul Krugman makes the perfect case for why we must keep track of ALEC:
Now, ALEC isn’t single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters — a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda — is one good way to highlight what’s going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.
In January, Progress Texas launched its inaugural report on ALEC and its influence in the Texas Legislature. Over the last ten years (2001 – 2011), Texas has received over $16.2 million from ALEC corporations – the 2nd highest total among states. Rick Perry is the largest single recipient of ALEC-related funds – he received more than $2 million from ALEC corporate members from 2004-2011. Dozens of Texas lawmakers have sat on ALEC’s taskforce committees, and a recent report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram found that among members of the Texas House of Representatives, Texas legislators spent $125,000 in taxpayer dollars since 2010 to pay for travel to ALEC-related functions. These and other key facts and figures about ALEC’s influence in Texas can be found in our report: ALEC Exposed in Texas.