Friday, January 14, 2011

The AZGOP, staunch defenders of private property rights...except when they aren't

There has been an ongoing battle going on between the Tohono O'odham Nation (a southern AZ tribal nation) and the City of Glendale and some state legislators.

The Nation legally acquired some unincorporated land near Glendale in the west Valley part of metro Phoenix and is planning to put up a resort and casino on the parcel.  The City of Glendale has objected to the plan, and aided and abetted by a group of legislators, have sued to block the transfer of the land to reservation status (that change in status is necessary before the Nation can construct a casino there).

Thus far, the City and the legislators have, thus far, been unsuccessful in court, but the litigation is continuing.

Now, the Republicans in the legislature are trying a different tactic.

They've introduced SB1136, which if passed and signed into law, would allow cities and towns in counties "with a population of more than three hundred fifty thousand persons" to annex unincorporated land that the city or town encircles or borders on three sides if the land owner applies to the federal government to take ownership or to hold in trust the land.

Reservations are considered "trust" lands.

In addition, the measure only requires a majority vote of the city or town council of the annexing municipality, and a 2/3 vote of that body would make the annexation immediately effective.

In short, the way the bill is worded, it could forestall efforts to place the land in trust for the Tohono O'odham Nation, especially if the bill is passed before the court fight works itself out.

The bill has an "emergency clause" attached to it, so if it is passed by a 2/3 vote (and the Rs have a 2/3 majority in each chamber of the legislature), it will go into effect immediately. 

It also is being fast-tracked - it is already scheduled for a committee hearing on next Thursday.

The R railroad of ugly legislation may have taken the week off in the aftermath of Saturday's shootings, but it look like it will be back up to full speed by next week.

And the word "ugly" is the right one here.

ARS 9-471 covers the municipal annexation process currently in effect, and to sum up very briefly, takes public notice, working with the land owners and residents of the affected area, and more than a year to complete.

However, this bill would make the process of annexing land that is legally owned by a tribal nation, but is not part of a reservation, as simple as calling a meeting of the local city council, notwithstanding any objections from the affected land owner.

On the other hand, if a city wants to annex land that is owned by someone else, saaayyyyyy an Anglo or a corporation, there are all sorts of hoops that the municipality must go through, and it's a relatively easy move to block if a majority of affected land owners object.

I've got phone calls and an email out to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to for more info on this one, but it seems likely that the Legislature is leading us toward another lawsuit, one that will be both expensive and futile.

Look for an update next week.


- Currently, there are only two counties in Arizona with more than 350K people - Maricopa and Pima.  Maricopa is the epicenter of this legal fight, and Pima is the home of the Tohono O'odham Nation.

- The Tohono O'odham Nation is located in LD25, where the delegates to the legislature are Reps. Peggy Judd and David Stevens, and Sen. Gail Griffin (Rs all).  None have signed onto the bill as yet, but Griffin is a member of the committee that is scheduled to hear the bill on Thursday. 

Should be an interesting hearing for the freshman senator.

- Tucson area Sens. Al Melvin (R-LD26) and Frank Antenori (R-LD30) have cosponsored the bill, as has Sen. Steve Smith (R-LD23) of Pinal County.  The other 11 sponsors/cosponsors are from Maricopa County or points north.

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