New state law requires cities and counties to challenge intrusive federal rules

by Nick Dranias
Goldwater Institute
Last week, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1398, which mandates that local governments enforce their “coordination rights” against federal agencies. This new law enlists Arizona cities, counties and special districts in the fight against an overreaching federal government.

SB1398 leverages the fact that federal agencies are required by many federal laws to “coordinate” with local governments to ensure that new federal regulations will be enforced consistently with existing local laws. In other states, local governments have successfully used their coordination rights to block the introduction of wild horses into public and private lands, as well as to prevent new listings of endangered species. Despite these successes, most local governments simply do not exercise their coordination rights, perhaps for fear of upsetting federal agencies.

Now, whenever a new federal regulation clashes with a less restrictive local law, plan or policy, SB1398 requires Arizona cities, counties and special districts to demand that the responsible federal agency sit down at a bargaining table and make every reasonable effort to modify the federal regulation to become consistent with local priorities. If local governments ignore this obligation, ordinary citizens will have the power to compel their local elected officials to justify their inaction at a public hearing, guaranteeing local accountability.

But the effort to restore federalism does not end with the passage of SB1398. To stake out an initial bargaining position that will blunt one-size-fits-all federal regulations, local governments in Arizona need to start developing freedom-friendly land use policies before the need for coordination arises.  Fortunately, the Goldwater Institute policy report “A New Charter for American Cities” shows how that can be done.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is Director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. Ironically, the governor failed to do that on Medicaid. Several other states have obtained “waivers” from the federal government to get out of having to “spend a dollar to get two” (or spend two to get one, whatever it is).

    Brewer forged forward with the maximum spending request and did not seek a coordination waiver on this, one of the most expensive state items and continued to insist that we “had to” spend the money, when we did not and could have obtained a waiver.

    Now, she wants to raise taxes on us or “everyone’s going to die.” Sheesh.

  2. Brewer will find out that actions have consequences. That is why we have contested primaries. Her ads for Prop 100 might as well have been penned by SEIU, AEA and the Democrats.

  3. Nick fails to credit conservative Senator Sylvia Allen for her authorship of this landmark legislation for Arizona.

  4. Kohut,

    The ads you speak of were penned and funded by the Chamber of Commmerce…most of the business community, the Fraternal Order of Police…and the list is miles long.

    This is about as bi-partisan a proposal as I have seen in years.

  5. “This new law enlists Arizona cities, counties and special districts in the fight against an overreaching federal government.”

    It’s be nice if the Goldwater Institute would say the same thing about the encroaching reach of state govt. over counties and localities.

    Case and point…the unfunded mandate and force of law used to force cities and towns to fight illegal immigration.

    SB 1070…unfunded mandate…state telling counties and cities what to do.


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