ALEC meeting in Indy draws scrutiny ahead of Pence speech

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – 1,200 lawmakers from every corner of the country are meeting this week at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis for the annual summer American Legislative Exchange Council meeting. It marks another high profile convention that’s come to downtown Indianapolis, but one that’s known for drawing criticism.

The conference is comprised of a series of closed-door meetings, where state lawmakers listen to public policy advice from other legislators and business leaders. ALEC draws it fair share of scrutiny. Wednesday, more than 100 protesters, many of them teachers and other public employees, gathered outside the statehouse and marched to the JW, claiming ALEC policy hurts the public sector.

“That’s what they do. When they disagree, they protest. We believe in free speech, they don’t,” said State Senator Jim Buck (R – Kokomo).

Lawmakers, like Buck attend the conference to learn what legislative policy he may pursue in the upcoming session. Buck says no laws are crafted or discussed; rather ideas on policy are shared.

“Because states are the laboratory of democracy, we share and collaborate on many, many subjects. We learn from each other both for what was done positively and what they tell us, don’t do what we did,” he said.

The conference is also an opportunity for big name conservatives, like Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate, Mike Pence to steal some of the spotlight, in a week dominated by democrats at the DNC.

“In this case it’s not necessarily the quantity of visitors here descending on Indianapolis, rather the quality,” said Chris Gahl, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Visit Indy.

Despite controversy tied to the conference, Gahl said it will pump more than $1 million in revenue into downtown Indy and have millions of eyes glued to its high profile guests.

“Just to have thought leaders in and around Indianapolis discussing this high profile of a conference adds to the allure of Indianapolis and the overall marketability of the city,” he said.

Pence is slated to speak at noon Friday at the JW Marriott. Initially ALEC officials said Pence would be speaking about state education issues, his speech will likely though take a more political turn given his new role as the VP nominee.