As we approach a new millennium, the very roots of America's past successes and gains in the public's interest are in jeopardy. Likewise, the vision for a clean, safe and pure future is in grave danger.
Proposition 300 is a menance to all that protects our community health, safety and welfare. While Prop 300 is falsely dubbed "the private property rights" intiative, something much more insidious and serious is present.
Prop 300 is the result of a group of individuals and associations working to increase private profits at the expense of the taxpayer. Originally rammed through the State Legislature by J. Fife Symington and his special interest clientele, this bill first appeared under the euphemistic misnomer "Private Property Act of 1992." However, a cognizant coalition of public interest groups, educators, and environmentalists forced a referendum which placed the bill in the hands of the public, in the form of Prop 300.
While proponents of Prop 300 argue that this bill is necessary to protect property owners from the unjust taking of property, it is clear upon inspection of the proposition that private property rights are not pertinent to the issue at hand. In Arizona, private property rights are fait accompli; clearly enumerated in both the United States Constitution and the Arizona State Constitution. This is not to say that every private property owner has been treated fairly and equitably by the government. However, the fact remains that justice for a government wrongdoing in terms of infringing on the rights of the private property owner must be found in court, not Prop 300.
What is at hand in Prop 300 is a flagrant transgression against the public interest by a small minority of powerful special interest groups, including ranching, mining, and development industries along with anti-environmentalists and the radical right, who together form the broad coalition called the "wise-use movement."
While in recent years we have seen enormous gains in public health regulations, labor and civil rights, consumer protection, and environmental laws, Prop 300 would effectively undermine and declare void these important elements of public protection. All this lost, only to feed the corporate ideology: maximize profits, regardless of the social costs.
According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law nor shall property be taken for public use without just compensation." Our private property rights are already guaranteed. The specific application of Prop 300 would require that an Assistant Attorney General of the state make a detailed review (called the "takings impact analysis") of any government regulation to determine whether or not this regulation had "takings" implications. In other words, any government action that can be seen as a "taking" of private property's economic potential would have to be compensated by the government with the taxpayer's money.
Take, for example, food contamination and Arizona's relatively stringent quality control standards for food handling, storage, packaging, transportation, etc. Today, if an inspector finds that a restaurant or grocer is not complying with the regulations, that business will be forced to shut down until these standards are met. Under Prop 300, however, this potential public health problem cannot be rectified because the food may "be taken only in response to real and substantial threats to the public interest." Or take mining as another example. Currently, Arizona has rules regarding smelters, hazardous waste disposal, etc. But, if Prop 300 passes, the mining industry could claim that these requirements reduce profit, and thus they would have to be reimbursed by the government (a taxpayer nightmare!). A little extrapolation from this point reveals the far-reaching implications Prop 300 has on pesticide spraying, nursing homes, child care, hunting and fishing rights, etc.
The conspicuous lack of clarity of wording of the proposition further breeds confusion, lawsuits, bureaucracy and other ultimately undesirable and unnecessary results that no taxpayer should put up with. The new costs that would result if Prop 300 were to pass would bankrupt the tax base through special interests' plundering of the public coffer, new administrative costs and expensive litigation. Only three, of the over 100 Arizona agencies that will be affected, estimated that their increased costs would be in the $500,000 range. It is no wonder governmental proponents of Prop 300 have not notified the public of the total cost if this legislation was to pass.
An examination of the proponents and opponents of Prop 300 is particularly revelatory. Supporting the proposition are the following special interest groups: Arizona Cattlemen's Association, Arizona Farm Bureau, Arizona Association of Realtors and J. Fife Symington, who will not fund education but is willing to stand by this ludicrous legislation. Working against it are an amalgam of public interest groups including the Arizona Community Protection Committee, the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association, the Arizona Public Health Association, the Arizona League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club. Is the intent of Prop 300 not clear?
Remember a "no" vote on Proposition 300 not only affirms private property rights, but supports consumer protection, public health, civil and labor rights, and environmental laws. We must not let the propaganda, the chicanery, and the inordinate political clout of these special interest groups take away our protections, our rights and our money.
Kirpail Johnson is a political science sophomore.
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