During Tuesday’s business session, Flagstaff City Council was presented with recommendations on pending bills to support or oppose. The bills recommended for the opposition had one thing in common: they would strip Arizona’s cities and towns of the power to govern themselves and instead consolidate power into the broader state government.
For example, HB 2375, if passed, would require cities to use their state-shared tax revenues exclusively for public safety — which is defined as police, fire, and emergency services. If a city were to use the shared revenue for other purposes, the amount would be withheld by the state treasurer the following year.
“It is, of course, negative in that it prevents local leaders from budgeting according to their own priorities,” said director of public affairs Sarah Langley.
Along the same lines, HB 2316 would prevent cities and towns from banning guns from public buildings unless an electronic control device — such as a metal detector — is in place. The bill would be a local authority pre-emption and unfunded mandate.
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HB 2453 and SB 1298 would also undermine the city’s right to self-governance by prohibiting cities from implementing mask requirements in city buildings.
“That’s something we think should be up to the city to decide, because it’s about city property,” Langley said.
Mayor Paul Deasy denounced the level of hypocrisy represented in these bills, referring to last year’s HB 2770, which allowed companies to implement their own masking policies.
“Companies should have the right to decide on masks within their businesses, but they tell us that municipal facilities controlled by the city, not the state, do not have the same right to their own property,” did he declare.
Regarding the masking bills, Todd Madeksza, state lobbyist for the City of Flagstaff, spoke candidly to the Council and said that these bills could likely become law.
“It seems to me that there should be some level of authority given to local governments,” he said. “I also think you have to be prepared for the idea that you might be stripped of that authority.”
But none of the bills listed threatened to dispossess local governance more than HB 2674. This bill was presented as an attempt to address the affordable housing crisis, but “it doesn’t really seem to be focused on affordable housing “Langley said. – instead, it would subject Arizona’s cities and towns to the will of developers.
HB 2674 proposes to “eliminate single-family zoning, give developers the power to ignore local requirements such as setbacks, maximum heights, or required building materials; it would eliminate review and approval processes by citizens, planning commissions and city councils, and municipalities would be required to approve multi-family developments in many zoning areas,” Langley explained.
If passed, HB 2674 would completely rob local government of its ability to zone residentially and implement affordable housing requirements, Madeksza said. According to him, the bill is the result of the construction industry shouting “COVID” and using the pandemic as an excuse to eliminate the city’s zoning authority. Similar bills have been introduced in the past, he said, and while he doesn’t predict this one will cross the finish line and be signed into law, he recommended the city pass a firm position of opposition.
“We have to fight it and we have to pursue it with vengeance,” he said. “It’s not a case where we sit and watch something die under its own weight. Some bills aren’t worth it. It’s worth the effort. We should kill it and make sure it’s dead.
Madeksza noted that HB 2674 currently has bipartisan sponsors and that opposition motivation should transcend party politics to prevent state government interference.
“It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue,” he said. “It’s a question of authority. Why would you want to take that authority away from towns and villages? »
City staff also presented several recommended supporting bills. These included SB 1270, which would help fund state parks and historic preservation, and HB 2633, which would allow cities to limit and regulate vacation rentals as a percentage of housing stock.
The latter is “an interesting animal,” Madeksza said. The way it is written follows a fine line that may be able to get it past the legislature and the governor’s office.
“[Gov. Doug Ducey] stripped any local authority to begin with, so it’s a question of what he’s willing to hand over,” he said.
Stronger bills have been introduced by Rep. Walt Blackman and Senator Wendy Rogers that would “put everything back under local control,” but Madeksza is skeptical of their chance of succeeding.
“[Blackman and Rogers’ bills] have not been assigned, they are not moving anywhere,” Madeksza said. “So we are looking for the next best option.”
City staff also asked Council to provide a letter of support for HB 2396, which would channel $50 million to the Arizona Department of Transportation for improvement projects, of which $2.6 million is earmarked. at the Lone Tree Overpass Project.
Council unanimously endorsed City staff’s recommendations and led lobbying efforts to have them proceed accordingly.
Currently, bills have one week left to be heard in their original house before moving on to the next part of the legislative cycle.
The future of the listed bills will become clearer next week, Madeksza said.
“We’ll have a much better understanding of which bills have legs and which bills don’t,” he added.
Sean Golightly can be contacted at [email protected]