Legislature should let local control remain local

The very essence of Arizona is rooted in local control. The Arizona Constitution is different than other states, designed to protect cities and towns – and the citizens who live in them – from government overreach.

Our system allows local municipalities to develop their own charters and govern themselves. This creates a wonderful balancing act between state and local authority, and it’s by design.

That’s why the recent actions of the state Legislature are so surprising.

House Bill (HB) 2061 and Senate Bill (SB)1063 are my first examples. Several city and town councils across the state have elected to levy a Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT) – or “grocery tax”, as it’s being called in current news reports. Chandler’s TPT is one of the lowest in the state at 1.5%.

The City collects a little over $14 million that is used to help fund police, fire, parks and street projects. These bills would ban cities from collecting that tax. One of the problems with this is obvious – cities will be on the hook to either find that money in other places or make cuts to services.

Shouldn’t these issues be decided by cities and towns, instead of the state attempting to usurp your authority?

Over the years, there have been other attempts by the state legislature to limit local control. And over the years, the Arizona Supreme Court has created a clear line in the sand – is the issue at hand local or statewide?

With this in mind, how can these bills represent a statewide issue when not all cities and towns even have the TPT? Their residents wouldn’t see ANY benefits from the ban.

My second example is SB1117, which will create new and burdensome rules for housing developments. This bill would undo local zoning laws with new building height rules and density requirements. Let’s be very clear about a few things.

First, the premise that cities and towns are to blame for the housing crisis is not accurate. There are several issues at work in the crisis we face.

For instance, in Chandler there are four multifamily projects ready to break ground in our city. They’ve been approved by the City Council, have all the necessary approvals and zoning worked out. The problem is, they can’t get built. Developers are struggling to get financing, labor and supplies.

So how does this bill help get these 800+ multifamily units built?

And how can legislators at the State Capitol, who typically campaign on fewer barriers for developers, suggest that adding these new restrictions to force a city’s hand will work? The answer is simple. It won’t.

To top it off, any time the state usurps a city, it is also usurping the citizens of the city who have voted for local leaders to make these types of decisions.

I implore our friends at the state legislature to rethink these bills and to sit down with cities and towns they are charged with representing to talk about real and lasting solutions.

Matt Orlando is a member of the Chandler City Council.

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