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Lawmaker proposes Ariz. take money collected by federal agencies

A bill in the Legislature would require federal agencies to register with county sheriffs before conducting business in Arizona.

House Bill 2077, sponsored by Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, would place restrictions on agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.

Additionally, the agencies would not be able to keep any money they collect through fines, fees or penalties. Instead, the money would be given to county sheriffs and then put into the state’s general fund.

Crandell drafted the legislation after taking a tour of Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold, Inc., a Phoenix-based mining company, where he discovered that the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration would conduct surprise inspections of Arizona mines.

“It seemed MSHA would come in unannounced and give an arbitrary finding for what they consider hazards,” Crandell said. “There are several other agencies that come in and want to control and levy fines and penalties and so on, and that’s money that’s generated here in the state and should stay here in the state.”

Freeport-McMoran declined to comment.

“We as a people have a right to know why they’re coming and when they’re coming,” Crandell said. “Right now they can just show up one morning and then they have free reign of your business or your industry or your personal life, for that matter.”

MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said her organization is mandated by federal law to inspect mines and doesn’t need permission to conduct business.

“Federal law usually supersedes state law anyway,” Louviere said. “We conduct surprise inspections all the time, that’s just the way we do business.”

Deputy State Mine Inspector Tim Evans said his agency conducts inspections of mines in Arizona according to state requirements, which are similar to federal requirements, with some differences. Both his agency and MSHA serve a purpose and are beneficial, he said.

“I would be curious to see whether state law is going to be effective against a federal agency which has the congressional power behind them to do their job,” Evans said. “Both agencies have the same mission but do it differently.”

Rodolfo Espino, an ASU political science professor, said this type of law, where a state agency appears to be protesting the interference of the federal government, is highly unusual but not unheard of.

In Arizona, former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack, who filed a lawsuit against the federal government in protest of his deputies being forced to enforce the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act passed in 1993, Espino said.

HB 2077 pits the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution against the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. The 10th Amendment says that any power not given to the federal government in the constitution is given to the states. The Supremacy Clause says federal law trumps state law.

“If the bill passes, Congress can always respond by saying, ‘We’re going to pass a law and our law trumps your law,’” Espino said.

Counties will also accept dollars from federal agencies in order to train officials to perform certain tasks, and HB 2077 could make federal agencies pull these types of funding, Espino said.

“An agency can say, 'If you’re not going to allow us in there, then we’re not going to allow federal dollars to help train officers,'” Espino said. “It’s something where imposing a fee on a federal agency can come back and backfire on these state offices, and it’s something that they might not want to do.”

The bill was held in committee last Tuesday in order to correct some wording, said Crandell, and will be put back on the calendar when these corrections are made.

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