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Senate panel debates ‘seductive evils’ of U.N. sustainability doctrine

An Arizona Senate panel approved a bill that would prohibit the state or any local government within Arizona from abiding by the principles of a United Nations declaration on sustainable development.

A critic of the non-binding U.N. doctrine decried the “seductive evils” of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the international group at a summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The declaration contains 27 principles promoting sustainable communities, but Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, described it as a power grab by an international government body designed to change Americans’ way of life.

Lawmakers approved the bill in the Senate Government and Environment committee Monday afternoon by a 4-3 vote.

“The truth contained within this United Nations program is something sinister and dark,” Burges testified to a round of applause in committee. “The plan calls for government to take control of all land use and not leave any of the decisions in the hands of private property owners.”

Americans would be forced to give up their land in a “redistribution of wealth” that Burges likened to communism – she later described Brazil itself as a crime-ridden communist country, though the country is a democratic republic.

“Are you ready to give up your private land?” Burges asked the crowd in attendance at the committee, which responded with a loud cry of “No!”

Without objecting to lawmaker’s disgust with the Rio Declaration itself, Arizona business leaders and state agency directors warned that Burges’ SB 1403 was so broad and wide-reaching that it would force businesses and government bodies to go back and reexamine current law in light of the bill.  It states that “notwithstanding any other law,” no principles of the declaration can be followed in the state.

That could prevent Arizona from adopting its own sustainable principles, according to Chad Heinrich, vice president of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and would make it difficult for Arizona businesses trying to follow the letter of the law as adopted by the Legislature.

Sen. Kelly Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said it was “far-fetched and alarmist” for agency directors to say Arizona wouldn’t be able to pass its own environmental protection plans, and Burges pestered Heinrich with questions prodding him for any connection linking Phoenix businesses with the U.N.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said adopting SB 1403 actually empowers the U.N. declaration by telling Arizona businesses and state agencies what they can’t do, rather than what they can do.

“What we’re doing here is creating laws, and we have to respect that process,” Farley said. “[Businesses] don’t know what we’re telling them to do because they don’t know what we’re saying.”

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