A major policy reform is nearing the home stretch and, if passed, will greatly reduce government overreach and lawlessness by local jurisdictions. The measure is Senate Bill 1487, and deals with the problem of local cities and towns passing ordinances and regulations that violate state law.

This is a critically important issue for supporters of limited government since the most common instances where municipalities decide to willfully ignore the law is in cases involving economic freedom and property rights. The poster child for this abuse has been the City of Tempe, who over the last year has fought to impose a costly plastic bag ban and mandatory paid sick leave on businesses; even though both violate state law.

Of course, when an individual breaks the law, they are not only forced to comply but are also punished for the infraction, whether that is by jail, fine, or revocation of privilege.

Cities and towns have had no such accountability. The only remedy for a rogue city has been for an individual or organization willing to litigate them into compliance, which is a costly endeavor and fraught with risk.  Not to mention this option disenfranchises the most vulnerable and exposes the person or entity to retribution by the city.

SB 1487 ends this double standard and will ensure that municipalities follow the law by giving the Arizona Attorney General the authority to investigate a municipality, upon request by a state legislator, to determine if they are in violation of state statute or the constitution.  If it’s determined that a violation did occur and the municipality does not resolve the violation, the penalty for noncompliance is the forfeiture of their state shared revenue.

The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House for approval.  The significance of this bill can hardly be overstated.  Without a more immediate mechanism to enforce the statutes and laws passed by the legislature that keep cities and towns from steamrolling citizens and businesses, it will continue to happen.

Every pro free market reform that protects citizens from local government overreach depends on this bill. Some examples from this session include:

  •  HB 2478, which prohibits cities from requiring a business waive their rights as a condition of license approval
  • HB 2517, which prohibits local occupational licensing unless for strict public health and safety
  •   SB 1350, which stops cities from banning short term rentals and home sharing, such as is done through Airbnb or VRBO

Towns and cities should not be exempt from consequences when they break the law.  We urge every lawmaker to support SB 1487.