Politics

John Oliver: You are Probably Being Screwed By Your State Legislature and Don't Even Know It

November 16th 2014

By:
ATTN: Staff

The midterm elections are upon us, and as John Oliver says in his latest episode of Last Week Tonight, Congress is likely to remain inactive no matter which party controls it on Tuesday. So why all of this attention on the national level, he inquires, especially in light of the fact that Congress is on track to be the least productive in history

The true focus, he reveals, should be on state legislatures "because they are on the places where most legislation is taking place." So far this session, Congress has passed just 185 laws; state legislatures have passed more than 24,000.

Admittedly, not every bill passed by a state legislature has grave implications on the people of their states (Oliver highlights a law in Missouri declaring jumping jacks their official state exercise), but "not all laws are so silly," he explains. State legislatures have recently raised the minimum wage and overturned bans on gay marriage while also deciding important matters around abortion and gun control-- all too frequently while few citizens are watching.

And whether or not you can name your state representative (the vast majority of people cannot), there's evidently a good chance he or she might have been influenced by a group called ALEC-- the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC convenes lawmakers, conservative think-tanks, and corporate interests together to write model legislation to be introduced and passed in state houses across the country. It's the lobbying force behind the troubling rise of many public policy issues we've covered such as private prisons, for-profit colleges, and restrictive voter ID laws.

To ensure your interests are represented both locally and federally, it's critical you vote on Tuesday. Studies show you (and your friends) are statistically more likely to show up, if you pledge to vote publicly on social media outlets. Take the pledge, by clicking here