Arizona House Republicans are working to protect the sovereignty of state lands.
On Tuesday, the Arizona State House of Representatives Republican Caucus announced that a handful of its members had “introduced measures to push back against Democrat President Joe Biden’s abuse of power and control over lands in Arizona.”
Those measures are as follows:
House Concurrent Memorial 2007, sponsored by House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci. The legislation “urges the President to repeal the recent designation of the Grand Canyon Footprints National Monument in Northern Arizona and oppose any such designation in the state of Arizona in the future.”
Biasiucci said, “If allowed to stand (Biden’s Grand Canyon Footprints National Monument), it will forever close this area to new uranium production and will continue America’s reliance on uranium supplied from foreign nations.”
House Concurrent Memorial 2005, sponsored by Representative Austin Smith. The legislation would “push back against President Biden’s ‘30×30’ agenda, which seeks to take 30 percent of all federal lands out of economic production (such as mining, energy, and agriculture) and, thereby, reduce our ability to provide for national food security and energy and mineral independence.”
Smith said, “The federal government is the largest landowner in the United States, controlling almost one-third of the entire land in the country. Over 90 percent of this land is in Western States. Under the equal footing doctrine of the U.S. Constitution, this land should have been given to their respective Western States upon statehood.”
House Concurrent Memorial 2008, sponsored by Representative John Gillette. The legislation “calls for the Antiquities Act of 1906 to be repealed or amended to reaffirm that entire landscapes, animate life, such as birds and mammals, and common plants and vegetation are not considered ‘landmarks, structures, or objects’ under federal law.”
Gillette said, “The Act, which was intended to preserve only historic landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest, has been repeatedly misused to set aside vast parcels of real property.”
House Concurrent Memorial 2006, sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin. The legislation would “call for Congress to enact legislation that requires the express authorization of Congress, the state, and each county affected before any additional federal land grabs may be declared in Arizona.”
Griffin said, “The intrusion and overreach of the federal government, including President Biden’s economically harmful 30×30 initiative, pose the greatest threat to Arizona’s lands, further preventing the state from deciding what is best for its citizens.”
House Concurrent Memorial 2004, sponsored by Representative Austin Smith. The legislation would “urge Congress to promptly enact legislation requiring the federal government to give to an affected state or county one acre of federal land for every acre the federal government removes or withdraws from the respective state or county.”
Smith said, “Imposing federal preservation management on Arizona lands obstructs our state’s land management objectives and reduces rural communities’ ability to provide local public services. Arizona has been damaged by the inordinate cost and substantial uncertainty regarding the national government’s infringement on Arizona’s sovereign control of federally controlled lands within its borders.”
The measures from the Arizona lawmakers follow a similar legal fight from Senate President and House Speaker Warren Petersen last fall, when they filed an amicus curiae in the case of Garfield County v. Biden. The case, led by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, involves President Joe Biden’s “unilateral move in 2021 of declaring more than 3 million acres of land in the southern part of the state now representing two ‘national monuments.’” Arizona’s leaders are supporting the State of Utah’s position that the president’s action here violates the Antiquities Act. After a District Court Judge sided with the White House, Utah appealed the decision, leading to additional briefing.
At the time of his filing, Petersen said, “It is time for the courts to weigh in and stop this federal corruption. Joe Biden’s unlawful maneuvers in both Utah and Arizona promise to wreak havoc on our local economies, the livelihoods of our citizens, and our national security. His end goal is to pander to radical environmentalists by ending mining, ranching and other local uses of federal lands. This has nothing to do with protecting actual artifacts.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Last year, Arizona was the most popular state for people to relocate to. Those new arrivals helped boost our economy and put the state’s budget in the black. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the state is falling behind in building homes to meet the needs of current families as well as newcomers.
Some may say that is just fine because they liked the Grand Canyon State before those people moved here. But they likely haven’t considered the consequences when the government restricts new housing.
The demand for housing goes up as families have children, residents get pay raises, and workers bring their skills and talents to our state. We celebrate these events, and to make sure it continues, we must allow the supply of housing to meet this increased demand.
When governments restrict the supply of new housing, it reduces the choices available to buyers, which drives up the cost of their new homes. It is the buyers who bear the cost of these restrictive policies. This year Arizona has a shortfall of 270,000 housing units, and that deficit in housing will continue for years to come.
This shortage of housing is quickly putting our state beyond the reach of many qualified young workers. If businesses can’t attract capable workers, the owners will think long and hard before moving their business here or expanding their current operations. And that’s bad news for all Arizonans because businesses pay the lion’s share of our taxes. Without a healthy economy, the state budget will slide into deficits again. And that means cutbacks for schools and roads.
If Arizona is to remain prosperous, we must be attractive and affordable for new businesses and new residents. As The Wall Street Journal wrote, “The shortfall of affordable housing hurts America’s businesses and the broader economy by preventing workers from living in areas with economic opportunities but high housing costs. Employers are forced to operate below their potential because they can’t attract or retain workers.”
Local land use restrictions bear most of the blame for the housing shortage. In many areas, it is hard or impossible to add a casita for an aging parent or young renter. Local regulations often prohibit empty nesters from renting a single bedroom to a senior. And cities often dictate design elements such as floor plans, styles, and materials for homes. Such restrictions do not protect public safety or health. They merely impose the preferences of politicians and bureaucrats and limit the choices for property owners.
Navigating through the planning bureaucracy is difficult and there are frequent delays. Not long ago, it took about six months to complete the planning process. Now, it often drags on for a year or more. The clerks handling the applications do not have to pay the price for those delays. It is the new buyer who bears the added costs. But these huge added costs are not obvious to home buyers.
One way to inform consumers would be to have a sticker price for each home, much like we see when buying a car. The sticker would list the actual costs of the land and construction. Then, the sticker would lay out the costs of the myriad government requirements, then list the multiple fees for the city, the county, and all special districts, and finally the costs for connections for electricity, gas, sewer, etc. The sticker would make it clear how much the land and construction actually cost, and what was added on by government regulations and processing.
The Legislature had the opportunity to deal with the shortage this year but dropped the ball. Speaker Ben Toma’s HB 2536 proposed allowing property owners to build casitas attached to or in the backyard of their home, and would have allowed owners to rent a single bedroom to seniors. The bill would have also prevented cities from dictating design elements and aesthetics. Arizonans should have the right to choose the style and layout of their homes, and not have their aesthetics dictated by the bureaucracy.
After passing the House unanimously, the Senate killed it under pressure from local politicians. Those politicos want to protect their monopoly on housing decisions, even if their decisions cause young families and seniors to be priced out of their city. I was surprised that ten Senate Republicans voted against this important bill: Bennett, Borrelli, Carroll, Hoffman, Kavanagh, Kern, Kerr, Mesnard, Rogers, and Wadsack.
They claim they voted to kill the bill to protect the prerogatives of local government. While I agree that most decisions are better left up to officials closest to the people, I strongly dispute that local governments have unfettered power to ignore the rights of their residents. Local governments do not have the authority to dictate the color and floor plan for new homes. That goes far beyond the proper scope of their duties and interferes with the basic rights of property owners.
I am particularly troubled that several members of the Freedom Caucus helped kill this bill. I don’t understand how they can believe that their votes to allow local politicians to excessively interfere with the rights of property owners doesn’t infringe on our basic rights. The members of the Freedom Caucus would do well to re-read Alexis de Tocqueville’s warning about the terrible impact imposed on the people by bureaucratic rules:
“It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
It is the duty of our state representatives to forestall efforts to make us sheep under the care of government bureaucrats. Our legislators are not elected by local governments; they are elected directly by the people. They should not think of themselves as protectors of local governments’ prerogatives; rather, they should be vigilant guardians of our freedoms no matter which level of the government tries to violate them. I would remind our legislators that our Constitution does not begin with the words “We the state and local governments” but “We the people.”
Pat Nolan is the Director Emeritus of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union Foundation. He and his wife live in Prescott.