By Sen. Steve Montenegro and Nick Dranias
Shouldn’t Arizona and every state in the nation have at least one tool to deliver less government, less regulation and more constitutional fidelity for a local community that wants it?
We certainly have enough tools that do the opposite.
Arizona law gives local communities an extensive menu of options to bury themselves in ever more government. They can choose from at least 40 mini-governments called “special districts” under Arizona law. Cloaked with innocuous names and widely divergent purposes like stadium districts, water districts, hospital districts, theme park districts, and others, they are layered on top of federal, state and county government, sometimes on top of cities and towns, and even sometimes on top of each other. More than 301 exist in Arizona according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And Arizona is typical of every state in the nation.
All of these mini-governments have one thing in common: Every special district creates and sustains bigger, more intrusive and more expensive government than existed before.
Each wields regulatory, taxing and/or borrowing authority that supports spending that would not otherwise exist. Not a single special district in Arizona or any other state in the nation delivers less government for any community.
Shouldn’t there be at least one?
Yes, says the Prosperity States Compact bill advancing with the help of Senators Steve Smith, Sylvia Allen, Nancy Barto, Warren Petersen, and Sonny Borrelli, as well as Representatives Noel Campbell, David Livingston, Darin Mitchell, Mark Finchem, and Anthony Kern in the Arizona legislature, and also by state legislators in Mississippi, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
The Prosperity States Compact would finally create something truly innovative and good on the special-district landscape: The Prosperity District.
What does the Prosperity District do? Simply put, it hits the reset button on big government for any local community that wants to.
Once formed, a Prosperity District repeals within its boundaries inefficient, corrupt and just plain stupid “spaghetti code” regulations and governing authorities that have been layered on top of the state and federal constitutions, the common law and the criminal law. Within the district, that heap of bad public policy is replaced with a streamlined local government designed to deliver the prosperity that naturally arises from freedom and responsibility.
A Prosperity District is a local government strictly limited to protecting individual rights and furnishing user-fee supported, competitively-bidded municipal services. There’s no eminent domain authority, no civil forfeiture authority, no taxing authority, and no power to give political handouts to cronies.
It isn’t another layer of government; it is, rather, a voluntary, localized and lower-cost solution to the hodgepodge of local governments and special districts that might otherwise occupy the same space.
Prosperity Districts wipe the slate clean above a constitutional, common law and criminal law baseline, giving any community that wants it the state of the art in efficient, effective and freedom-friendly public policy.
And it gets even better than that.
Although a Prosperity District starts by repealing and replacing burdensome state and local regulations when formed, it can eventually push back on federal regulations as well. Once a second state joins Arizona in passing the Prosperity States Compact legislation, an interstate compact will be formed. Congressional consent—usually in the form of a joint resolution signed by the President— gives the Prosperity States Compact the status of federal law and the power to override any conflicting mandate of any federal agency.
Too good to be true? Not at all.
The Prosperity States Compact uses a proven method to achieve deep reforms in an unfavorable political environment. By starting small and only in communities that voluntarily embrace them, Prosperity Districts don’t threaten established order as much as statewide or national reform. And once one takes root, the proof – economic, political and otherwise – will be impossible to ignore.
We know this because there’s evidence across the globe. The Soviet Union fell in large part because of the example set by West Berlin. China became the economic powerhouse it is today in large part by replicating most of the economic policies of Hong Kong – a few special economic zones in four cities later grew to encompass most of the country. Even the United States itself was once a similar example to the world.
Deep reform in a small area can deliver results that are so obviously successful that the most powerful interests, adverse cultures and ideologies get swept aside in the rush to replicate the success.
With leadership from citizens and legislators, passage of the Prosperity States Compact could result in a handful of communities in Arizona and sister states becoming beacons of freedom and prosperity and liberty—from the grassroots-up, rather than the top-down.
Don’t Arizonans—and Americans—deserve that chance?
Sen. Steve Montenegro is the primary sponsor of the Prosperity States Compact bill. Nick Dranias is a constitutional scholar and president of the Compact For America Educational Foundation, Inc.