Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Goldwater Institute: New state law requires cities and counties to challenge intrusive federal rules

Last week, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1398, which mandates that local governments enforce their "coordination rights" against federal agencies. This new law enlists Arizona cities, counties and special districts in the fight against an overreaching federal government.

handshakeSB1398 leverages the fact that federal agencies are required by many federal laws to "coordinate" with local governments to ensure that new federal regulations will be enforced consistently with existing local laws. In other states, local governments have successfully used their coordination rights to block the introduction of wild horses into public and private lands, as well as to prevent new listings of endangered species. Despite these successes, most local governments simply do not exercise their coordination rights, perhaps for fear of upsetting federal agencies.

Now, whenever a new federal regulation clashes with a less restrictive local law, plan or policy, SB1398 requires Arizona cities, counties and special districts to demand that the responsible federal agency sit down at a bargaining table and make every reasonable effort to modify the federal regulation to become consistent with local priorities. If local governments ignore this obligation, ordinary citizens will have the power to compel their local elected officials to justify their inaction at a public hearing, guaranteeing local accountability.

But the effort to restore federalism does not end with the passage of SB1398. To stake out an initial bargaining position that will blunt one-size-fits-all federal regulations, local governments in Arizona need to start developing freedom-friendly land use policies before the need for coordination arises.  Fortunately, the Goldwater Institute policy report "A New Charter for American Cities" shows how that can be done.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is Director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

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