Watch for the court filing: 'Local government vs. the State'
VERDE VALLEY -- "I find this bill and the general draconian attitude of the Governor and the Legislature discouraging, disappointing, and unproductive."
Lew Currier, Jerome's Mayor, is referring to SB 1487, a 2016-bill the governor recently signed that has become a powder keg for revolt between the State's Legislature and Governor and cities and towns. The bill would give the state the power to snatch away shared revenues from lowly cities and towns who philosophize differently from the state.
Like plastic bags? That is what started this mess. Bisbee voted to disallow the use of plastic bags in the city for environmental reasons. Flagstaff and others wanted to do the same. The legislature, likely backed by a wealth of plastic bag money, approved legislation to ban the bag ban.
Then the state passed a follow-on bill that would essentially penalize any local government for bucking state law. That is SB 1487.
SB 1487 gives the state the authority, via it's a decision of the attorney general and treasurer to withhold all state-shared revenues from that community and re-distribute it to others.
The issue is not just plastic bags, it is also refusing to permit vacation rentals, whether a town's zoning permits or not. It is approving fireworks, says Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, where "the desert is a tinderbox at best."
"You look at the bills to limit the cities and towns' ability to limit bed and breakfasts, 'AirBnBs.' The Governor's very supportive of what he calls 'the sharing economy.' He doesn't like the cities and towns making their own rules about this stuff."
"We see a lot of that stuff with this governor. He seems to feel that the State of Arizona is a much better manager of city and town affairs than the cities and towns and the people of those cities and towns are.
"I don't know where this is going to go, but no place good."
He believes the decision will be made by a high court.
Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens cites former Governor Jan Brewer when she was in office, "While I can agree that all levels of government must continue to find ways to cut costs, I am becoming increasingly concerned that many bills introduced this session micromanage decisions best made at the local level. What happened to the conservative belief that the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people?"
The bottom line is money.
If a legislator requests an investigation and the state attorney general finds a local government's law violates state law, the town has 30 days to correct the violation or the state treasurer is ordered to withhold shared revenues, which in some cases can amount to 40 percent of a town's budget.
It allows the attorney general to investigate "any ordinance, regulation, order or other official action' by a community to see if it violates state statutes or the constitution.
A trio of major city mayors argued for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, "What possible hubris could drive a single legislator to think he or she has more wisdom than the local elected officials who have been chosen by the voters to govern their communities?' the mayors wrote Ducey. "What happened to the principle of 'presumption of innocence' in our legal system?'
Again, Clarkdale Mayor Von Gausig, "An agreement was made years ago to say, the state is the sole entity that may collect income tax. In exchange, it will pay part of that to cities and towns and they would pay part of the sales tax that the state collects to cities and towns."
"That is a long-standing revenue source that cities and towns have expected for years. Now to have the state decide that it doesn't like something you do, it will punish you by withholding that money is just asking for lawsuits. Its creating an atmosphere of antagonism between the governor's office, the legislature and cities and towns that I think is completely injurious and unnecessary."
Adds Von Gausig, "I wish that the legislature and the governor, would get back to running the state of Arizona which is now 50th in education and all kinds of other things that need to be done. We have neglected our state, we have neglected our infrastructure. We have neglected the state lands department. Since they don't want to work on all these difficult things, they have decided to work on cities and towns."
"They aren't listening to people that are in the trenches doing the work. They aren't listening to anyone because they have this permission from the governor to act in this egregious way."
Once again, Joens cites Local Government 101: "Each local government is as unique as an individual human being. That is why policies that impact local governments must be decided by local elected officials and their citizens."
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