County News

In October, Sedona City Attorney Robert Pickels called Senate Bill 1487 one of the worst pieces of legislation he’d ever seen.

Two months later, his feelings haven’t changed.

On Dec. 14, more than 20 members of the city of Sedona staff and council members as well as council members from Cottonwood, Jerome, Camp Verde and Clarkdale met in Sedona City Hall. There, they talked on a variety of issues facing the 2017 state legislature with state Reps. Bob Thorpe [R] and Brenda Barton [R] as well as state Sen. Sylvia Allen [R]. All three represent the Verde Valley.

“I thought the event was a tremendous success,” Pickels said the next day. “We think that it was the first of its kind here in Sedona and we hope to replicate it every year in advance of the legislative session. It gave Sedona and the Verde Valley an opportunity to strengthen our collective voice on legislative issues. It also allowed us to become more familiar with our legislative delegation and understand what issues are most important to them.”

One of the topics discussed by the panel was SB 1487, which Pickels said he hopes the legislature will either overturn or at least modify a great deal.

The bill states that “at the request of one or more members of the legislature, the state attorney general shall investigate any ordinance, regulation, order or other official action adopted or taken by the governing body of a county, city or town that the member alleges violates state law or the Constitution of Arizona.”

It goes on to state that the attorney general shall make a written report of findings and conclusions as a result of the investigation within 30 days after receipt of the request. A copy of the report will be provided to the governor, the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, the member or members of the legislature making the original request and the secretary of state.

If the AG concludes that a violation has been made to any provision of state law or state constitution, the attorney general will provide notice to the violating party and indicate that is has 30 days to resolve the violation.

If the AG determines that the county, city or town has failed to resolve the violation within 30 days, the state treasurer will be notified to withhold and redistribute state shared monies. In the case of Sedona, that equates to nearly $2.1 million this fiscal year and is distributed to the city monthly in equal installments.

After that, the state will continue to monitor the response of the governing body, and when the offending ordinance, regulation, order or action is repealed or the violation is otherwise resolved, the attorney general shall notify all the parties involved. The state treasurer will restore the distribution of state shared revenues that were withheld. Any funds that are withheld from a town or city will be distributed among the state’s other 90 towns. Pickels said the bill does not address how that money will be refunded to the city in question.

The Arizona League of Cities and Towns is opposed to this bill and is seeking to have it repealed, he said. If nothing else, he said they want to add wording that states a legislator must represent the area in which a complaint originates. Under the current law, a legislator from cities such as Tucson, Kingman or Page can file a complaint and request an investigation into a Sedona ordinance.

What led to this bill was the town of Bisbee’s ban on plastic bags two years ago, Pickels said. The state said they couldn’t do that but the Bisbee City Council chose to move forward with it.

“In essence, the president of the senate said, ‘You’re challenging our authority? How dare you do that,’” Pickels said in an October interview with the Sedona Red Rock News. “So that’s what caused him to draft this draconian bill that really puts a heavy burden on local jurisdictions from considering what’s appropriate for them.

“Instead, they’re going to be constantly concerned about the correlation between a local ordinance and the state law. You always want to make sure your ordinances comply but it’s such a heightened scrutiny now that it feels like we’re governing from a position of fear.”

During the meeting, Allen said SB 1487 came down to a desire to have uniformity among cities and towns within the state.

“I feel there was a knee-jerk reaction to a lot of stuff in regard to this bill,” she said. “The knee-jerk reaction was a result of some cities possibly wanting to do what was above what’s on the state’s book [laws].”

She went on to say, “Yes, I would be willing to reform it. I think it was too broadly written. I think it allows too many little things that one could run to the attorney general over. To me it had to be something big and serious that would hurt us statewide if we didn’t have uniformity.”

In regard to any legislator being able to file a complaint against a town outside of his or her jurisdiction, Allen said when the bill was going through, she disagreed and she felt any complaints should be filed by a representative within their own coverage area.

Thorpe said he encourages representatives from the various cities to put together a list of those aspects of the bill they find most egregious and he will bring them up during the legislative session.


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