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Thu, Dec. 05

Editorial: State cements its will in new laws

“Do as we say, or else.” That is the message the Arizona Legislature’s leadership sent this session.

Its leaders, such as Senate President Andy Biggs, told the Associated Press the state’s relationship to the federal government is different from the Legislature imposing its will on cities and towns.

“The states created the federal Constitution – the states have sovereignty,” Biggs said. “Guess what the Arizona Constitution says: It creates the cities, towns and counties. They are subdivisions. That’s the fundamental difference. We give them authority to act.”

That is why state lawmakers this year gave so many marching orders. The state joined legislatures around the country in passing laws that punish municipalities and counties that try to diverge from state rules. During Arizona’s session, which ended May 7, the Republican-controlled Legislature introduced more than a dozen bills aimed at usurping local authority – such as plans to raise the minimum wage, enact employment regulations regarding paid sick leave, even prohibiting regulation of plastic shopping bags, commercial breeders in pet stores, drones, and short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO, among others.

In part, Gov. Doug Ducey led the charge calling on cities and towns to “put the brakes” on. Some of those proposals, he said, could drive the economy off a cliff.

Add in that Ducey approved a plan to cut off funding for local governments that pass laws that conflict with state regulations. Didn’t President Obama just issue a similar form of blackmail, telling school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice – or lose federal funding?

On one hand, we elect these people to represent our interests. That involves a matter of trust – that they know what they’re doing or are acting in our best interests.

On the other side, I see a state fighting tooth and nail with its big brother (the federal government’s authority), yet at the same time treating cities, towns and counties like a red-headed stepchild.

Frankly, I don’t buy Biggs’ creation theory, because preserving “local control” has been the mantra for decades – even by Ducey himself.

Also, authorities cry foul when a large or national association – such as a pro-marijuana group – comes to Arizona to get laws here to mirror those of, say, Colorado where the plant is legal for personal use. Yet, they will not even flinch when they draw from an outside group like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which lobbies state lawmakers across the country to craft more uniform laws or to oppose a particular law within a city.

Statewide regulations are designed to provide consistency and uniformity, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said during an ALEC media call on the issue. Allowing every city to have its own laws complicates things for business owners, the AP reported. “You don’t want to be able to cross the street and have the situations where you come under a whole new set of rules, carry a whole new set of books,” DiCiccio said.

I thought that was the American way. Isn’t it called, uh … local control?

We’re receiving mixed messages here. I guess it is: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

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