Over six years ago, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) expressed interest in buying some state trust land north of Tucson where it could build a switching yard. The state’s Land Department, however, has vacillated. While Arizona regularly hands out incentives to attract large companies – especially solar companies – it drags its feet on a deal that would cost the state nothing and bring in revenues, not to mention hundreds of jobs.
The Land Department has required studies from Union Pacific and surrounding landowners regarding potential transportation and commercial impacts. The Land Department also commissioned a study that expressed concerns about drainage if the switchyard were installed, as if the railroad would never think to protect its own investment with adequate drainage. Surrounding land owners support the sale, as do U.S. Congressmen, local governments, and state legislators.
Since 1912, Arizona has sold 14 percent of its initial trust land grant, a rate of sale that might see the last acre sold in 600 years. Only Montana has sold at a slower rate. And while Arizona stalls on the Union Pacific deal, the railroad builds a switch yard in New Mexico, which would no doubt like to have another one. As Congressman Franks said, “We risk the UPRR choosing an alternative out of State location and Arizona losing the jobs and business activity the facility would create.”
If we are serious about building a sound and lasting economy, the Land Department should approve the Union Pacific land sale so we can put more Arizonans to work.
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Just over six years ago, Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 207, one of the nation’s strongest protections for property rights, which requires governments to pay property owners when regulations reduce their property values.
But cities across Arizona are skirting the law to avoid compensating property owners. A recent example is the City of Sedona’s attempt to circumvent Prop. 207 by masquerading a property regulation as a health and safety ordinance, arguing it is exempt from the law. Thanks in part to the Goldwater Institute’s legal work, the courts saw through the façade and ruled that cities can’t avoid Prop. 207 by merely claiming to advance public health without offering any evidence.
Now, the City of Flagstaff is arguing that property owners should have less time to sue for just compensation. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals has sided with the city and against the intent of the voters, effectively shortening the deadline to sue under Prop. 207 by three months and blocking property owners from enforcing their rights in court.
This isn’t the first time that Flagstaff has ignored Prop. 207. The city previously imposed an extra pre-suit requirement on property owners, making the Prop. 207 claim process burdensome, confusing, and virtually unenforceable. It took the legislature’s intervention to rescue property owners, passing a corrective law drafted by the Goldwater Institute to ensure property owners have their day in court.
Individuals seeking to protect their rights under Prop. 207 should not have to visit the legislature every time cities come up with an inventive way to sidestep the law. The Goldwater Institute, which has been more active and effective than any other organization in enforcing property rights protections under Prop. 207, filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to hear this case and send a strong signal to cities that they can’t make end runs around Arizona voters.
Even in his sunset years, Ronald Reagan understood too well that Congress will never tie its own hands when it comes to debt spending. Lamenting the repeated failure of Congress to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment, Reagan wrote on May 23, 1994:
We can’t depend on Congress to discipline itself . . . we must rely on the states to force Congress to act on our amendment. Fortunately, our Nation’s Founders gave us the means to amend the Constitution through action of state legislatures . . . . That is the only strategy that will work.
Reagan knew the only practical option for limiting federal debt spending was for the states to advance a Balanced Budget Amendment by convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution —not because it would be easy, but because Washington would never do it on its own. Reagan focused on a BBA not because he was a bean counter, but because he knew dispelling the illusion of limitless resources created by limitless debt spending was essential to restraining the federal government to its proper functions. And yet, decades of failed attempts have given rise to doubts over whether the states will ever successfully use their ultimate power under Article V to reform the federal government. It is time to dispel those doubts.
With the Compact for America, it has finally become feasible for the states to fix the national debt. The Compact for America is an agreement among the states to advance and ratify a pre-defined Balanced Budget Amendment. Although Congress will have a role in blessing the Compact for it to work as designed, the necessary resolution will only require simple majorities of each house of Congress, instead of the two-thirds otherwise required for a direct amendment proposal. Once three-fourths of the states join the Compact, this congressional blessing will set in motion a fully regulated convention of state governors, which will have the job of deliberating over and voting up or down the specific Balanced Budget Amendment the Compact proposes. If the convention approves the Balanced Budget Amendment, it will become the 28th Amendment.
In short, the Compact transforms the amendment by convention process into a “turn-key” operation that would be the rough equivalent of a ballot measure for the states. Rather than the 100+ state and federal enactments needed for the ordinary amendment by convention process to work (including 34 state applications, one congressional call, 26+ delegate appointments, one congressional ratification referral, and 38 state ratifications), the Compact would only need 39 enactments—one congressional blessing plus adoption by 38 states. It would thereby cut the lobbying time and resources needed for the Article V amendment process by more than 60 percent.
With the Compact for America, we can finally win one for the Gipper. And with the gross federal debt already in excess of 100 percent of GDP, we must.
Like most states across the country, Arizona has long suffered from abysmally low voter turnout in local elections. In the state’s two largest cities – Phoenix and Tucson – voter turnout rates for the most recent local candidate elections hovered at a mere 30 percent.
But in 2012, the Arizona Legislature enacted a simple fix that will dramatically increase voter turnout in cities and towns across the state. That fix is HB 2826, which requires Arizona municipalities to hold local candidate elections on the same day as statewide candidate elections – August or September and November of even-numbered years.
Scottsdale aligned its election dates in this manner in 2008. Since that time, its turnout rates have risen from 30 percent to between 60 and 85 percent. Similar increases occurred in Chandler after the city aligned its elections with statewide elections.
But now Phoenix and Tucson – the “30 percenters,” we’ll call them – have filed a lawsuit to evade the law before its positive effects can be felt. They argue that the state cannot require charter cities to move their election dates. But this argument misses the mark.
Under the Arizona Constitution, cities may establish city charters, but those charters are subject to state law. If a charter conflicts with state law, state law trumps.
The only exception to this rule is that when the conflict arises in an area of purely local interest, city charters prevail in the case of conflict. But Arizona courts have already established that the dates on which cities hold local elections is not a matter of purely local interest but is instead a matter of statewide concern.
The Goldwater Institute has petitioned the trial court to allow it to join in defense of the law. As an amicus party, or “friend of the court,” the Institute represents Representative Michele Ugenti, who sponsored the bill in the legislature, residents of both Phoenix and Tucson, who recognize the value of election alignment, and the Institute itself as the drafter of the bill.
We’re confident that the court will recognize Arizona’s interest in increasing voter turnout, decreasing voter apathy, and saving taxpayers money.
East Valley Tribune: Taxpayers, voters win; special interests lose
Goldwater Institute: Save money, double turnout with consolidated elections
Goldwater Institute: It's time to burst the special-interest election bubble
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