Pending Bills Could Undo Local Officials’ Budget Plans

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The Legislature continues to make life hard for local governments, with a series of bills that could potentially gut planning and zoning efforts — and unbalance local budgets.

The bills to drastically reduce local control in defense of private property rights and the rights to carry a gun and a host of other changes have left local officials fuming.

Among the bills pending before the Legislature are a ban on energy efficiency building codes, a firearms bill that would impose drastic and expensive penalties on local officials who do anything to limit gun rights and a bill that would give property owners a tax credit of up to $100,000 if they believe that any land use law or regulation had made their property less valuable.

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Senator Chester Crandell

SB 1227: Energy efficient standards

For instance, Rim Country’s representative in the state Senate, Chester Crandell (R-Heber) has teamed with the Arizona Homebuilders Association to push through a bill that would prevent cities and counties from adopting energy-efficient standards in building codes.

Crandell said that towns don’t need energy-efficient codes because the energy crisis and feared global warming due to the release of polluting greenhouse gases isn’t real. At a recent committee hearing, he suggested that in fact we should increase the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to stimulate plant growth.

Crandell introduced SB1227, suggesting that the move toward codes that require better insulation in homes is just a plot by manufacturers of such green building materials to boost their business.

Lobbyists for the Homebuilders Association maintain that the increasingly strict energy efficiency standards by many counties and towns simply drives up the cost of housing, reducing the supply of affordable housing.

The energy efficiency standards generally affect things like insulation, building materials, double-paned windows and other changes to reduce the cost and energy required to keep a home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

HB 2517: Firearms

Rep. Brenda Barton’s (R-Payson) bill would allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to take guns into any public building, unless the town or county has provided both gun lockers and metal detectors at each entrance to the building.

Payson has had problems with citizens with conceal carry permits who have made harsh criticisms of town officials or town policies who have brought or threatened to bring guns to council meetings. The current law allows towns to ban weapons in public buildings if they provide gun lockers. The new law would require both gun lockers and metal detectors for people with concealed carry permits.

The element of the bill that has especially upset local officials is the penalties section, which would provide for personal fines and removal from office for any town official who tries to enforce rules on firearms more restrictive than allowed under state law. The penalties would not only impose personal penalties, but bar the use of public funds to put up a defense and specify that the official couldn’t offer as a defense that he was acting on the advice of his attorney or the town attorney.

The measure has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

HB 2448: Property rights

This bill would add significantly to the risk towns or counties face if they adopt rules or ordinances that in any way affect property values. The law already provides property owners with the legal grounds to sue if the town rezoned property in a way that could affect property values — like decreasing the number of units allowed per acre. The new law would raise the stakes considerably, essentially giving property owners the right to make a $100,000 claim against a town if he believes a rule has decreased his property value. He could collect the money from money owed to the town by the state and the town would have to contest the claim and win in court to get the money back.

The bill doesn’t include any standards like the need for an appraisal to justify the claim and the town has no process set up to contest the claim — except going to court.

Towns currently have all kinds of rules and regulations that could conceivably affect property values. That includes rules against blight and public nuisances, efforts to develop a trail system, regulations on parking RVs, sign ordinances, rules on noises and barking dogs. Those regulations could all affect property values in addition to the land use restrictions that form the basis of zoning ordinances.

The bill has passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

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