A group of lawmakers who fought for expanded insurance coverage for children with autism said they weren’t invited to the Business Council of Alabama’s summer conference at Point Clear next month.
The BCA was an opponent of the autism coverage legislation that was approved overwhelmingly by lawmakers, calling it an Obama-style mandate on employers that would increase premiums.
Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville, sponsored the bill in the House. He said this is the first time he hasn’t been invited to the BCA’s summer conference since he was elected in 2010.
“It looks like I’m in pretty good company,” Patterson said today. He also said he’s always had a good relationship with the BCA.
“I have a very good voting record when it comes to business,” he said. But on the autism issue, he said he listened to people in his area.
“I’m more concerned about pleasing my district than I am any group in Montgomery,” he said.
Brian Lyman reports at The Montgomery Advertiser:
Two senators said Thursday the Business Council of Alabama froze them out of an annual governmental affairs conference because of their support for legislation mandating coverage of autism therapies.
The House sponsor of the legislation and another senator who supported it said they also weren't invited, though they were not entirely certain why.Kyle Whitmire writes at the Alabama Media Group:
Sens. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road and Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who pushed hard for the legislation last spring, said in separate interviews they believed their support meant invitations to an annual summer conference hosted by BCA in Point Clear were withheld this year.
“I was viewed as the face of that bill,” Ward said. “That created some ill feelings with them and leadership.”
Nancy Hewston, a spokeswoman for BCA, strongly denied Thursday that the autism bill -- which BCA opposed -- was the reason they were not on the guest list, though a statement from Hewston did not give another reason.
"They're mad at me because of the autism bill," Brewbaker said.
Brewbaker was a little more candid than others I spoke with. He's not running for reelection next year. He called the BCA a "punitive organization." While he supports 90 percent or more of what the BCA proposes, that apparently wasn't enough for them.
"That's the way politics is," he said. "It's a contact sport, and you have to have a thick skin. It's their conference and they can invite whoever they want. There are no hard feelings here."
Among a subset of anti-crony capitalism Republicans, BCA has been making enemies. State Rep. Ed Henry is among them. Like Brewbaker, he too, has said he won't seek reeelection and now he's not holding anything back.
"There's quite a few of us who tanked all their bull crap this year and now they're mad at us," he said.
Henry's no AEA Democrat or liberal snowflake. He supported Donald Trump before Trump was cool (at least among Republicans). He says his experience in the Legislature has been eye-opening.
"If corporate welfare is not as bad as regular welfare, it's right there on the cusp," Henry said. "We don't even know who is getting any of this stuff half the time when we vote on it."