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Late Night FDL: It’s 3 AM. Do You Know What Your Legislature Is Doing?

Good evening everyone! Phoenix Woman here, commandeering the Late Night helm like a drunken teenager hot-wiring an El Camino. Clear the highway, Phoenix’s comin’ through!

Tonight’s topic involves the possibility that, to serve the interests of Mammon, our state legislatures are selling off not only our birthrights, but our freedoms as well. Sally Jo Sorensen, who at her blog Bluestem Prairie monitors the goings-on in and around Greater Minnesota, passes on this disquieting news — news that affects all Minnesotans and likely reflects similar shenanigans going on in your home state’s legislature:

On Friday afternoon after the Clinton hearing [a hearing concerning whether to allow a company to dynamite the local scenic granite outcroppings for concrete mix], I receive a blast action alert from the Land Stewardship Project, which keeps a field office in Montevideo that promotes local food and sustainable, family-scale agriculture. Organizer Bobby King cuts to the chase about the threat to local control, specifically interim ordinances like that approved by the Ortonville Township board:

House File 389 will make it more difficult for citizens who want their township, county or city to take action and protect the community from unanticipated, harmful development. The bill weakens the power of local governments to enact interim ordinances (also called land use moratoriums). An interim ordinance allows local governments to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. This power is essential when the community is caught off-guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful proposals, especially those from corporate interests and outside investors, such as big box stores like Wal-Mart or a large-scale factory farm. An interim ordinance freezes the status quo and gives the community time to review or create the appropriate zoning ordinances.

UPDATE: House File 389 was tabled at the Jan. 26 hearing in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee due to our phone calls and e-mails and strong testimony in opposition. Now new language for the bill is being proposed as a “compromise.” However, this new language still dramatically weakens local control and is NOT a compromise. Under this new proposal, after a project applies for a permit the local unit of government has a short window of time in which to enact an interim ordinance. If they miss that window, then the proposed project is exempt. The clock starts running before any public hearing — by the time there is a hearing, the clock could be run out. . .

In short, taking away one of the tools citizens in Big Stone County just implemented to stop the clock for a timeout and conversation. Gutting local control has long been a goal of developers and Big Ag, but with self-professed enemies of big government now in control of the state capitol, the odds for big government to neuter little government has never been higher.

This is a big deal in Big Stone County, Minnesota, because the Big Stones that the mining company, Strata, wants to blow up for concrete are a prime scenic and tourist attraction, providing lots of jobs and millions of dollars each year for the Western Boundary Waters area as well as the county’s very name. By contrast, Strata’s planned project will only create 5 to 6 jobs at most and maybe $20,000 in tax revenue per year while costing a lot in wear and tear. But if HF 389 isn’t stopped — and Governor Dayton, are you listening? Get your veto pen ready — places like Big Stone County will in essence no longer be allowed to say no to companies like Strata, or to organize locally to determine their own fates.

Hmmm — Republican-sponsored legislation taking away the rights of municipalities to determine their own fates? Where have I seen something like this before?

Oh, yeah — here:

The Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act repeals any local “living wage” mandates, ordinances or laws enacted by political subdivisions of the state. It also prohibits political subdivisions from enacting laws establishing “living wage” mandates on private businesses, including those businesses that have service contracts with and/or receive financial assistance from such political subdivisions of state government.

That’s right, gang — it’s another ALEC “model bill”. And here’s an even closer ALEC match to HF 389:

An Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation

Section 1.

(A) Findings and Purpose. The Legislature finds that the planning and zoning authority granted to rural counties may encourage land use regulation which is overly centralized, intrusive and politicized. The Legislature further finds that rural counties, local elected officials and their citizens may reasonably prefer transitioning to a system of decentralized land use regulation based on restrictive covenants and the common law of private nuisance. Accordingly, the Legislature herewith intends to grant rural counties the legal authority to abandon their planning and zoning authority in order to transition to decentralized land use regulation consisting of restrictive covenants and the common law of private nuisance.

If you ever see a piece of legislation whose blatant big-business-oriented evil is just too carefully crafted to have come from the brains of your local Republican talent, poke around the thing a bit: it may well have been cribbed from, or at least inspired by, an ALEC model bill. The bill designed to take away the right of self-determination from Minnesota’s cities and counties may or may not have an exact ALEC original, but it sure has the whiff of ALEC-ness all over it. Governor Dayton needs to make it go away when it hits his desk.

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Phoenix Woman

Phoenix Woman