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Senate panel moves hearing, bars public ^ | 05/02/02 | By Sarah Foster

Posted on 05/02/2002 12:19:26 PM PDT by Patriotman

ON CAPITOL HILL Senate panel moves hearing, bars public Federal land-use bill OK'd after meeting suddenly changed location

Posted: May 2, 2002By Sarah Foster

© 2002

Opponents of a controversial land-use planning bill who hoped to observe a committee vote on the measure learned minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin that the hearing room where the vote was to be taken had been unexpectedly switched to a location off-limits to the general public.

"It was pretty sleazy," said Mike Hardiman, lobbyist for American Land Rights Association, a nonprofit grass-roots advocacy group based in Battleground, Wash. "Clearly, the Democrats didn't want anyone there, so they arranged the night before to move the meeting room and didn't tell anyone."

Titled the Community Character Act and numbered S. 975, the bill, which was approved 12-7 in the closed meeting, sets up a federal block grant program of $25 million a year for five years, for state and tribal governments to update their land-use planning laws and develop legislation that would require local governments to rewrite their zoning ordinances, bringing them into line with "established professional" views on land use. The program would be handled by the Commerce Department, which would evaluate and approve the grant proposals.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island and co-sponsored by Vermont Sen. James Jeffords, a former Republican, now Independent.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Jeffords, heard the bill in early March, but markup – the final debate and vote – had been postponed several times. The committee was finally scheduled to meet April 25 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building at 9:30 a.m. to markup not only S. 975, but five other bills as well. Arriving over an hour early to be sure of a seat, Hardiman wondered why there were so few people waiting in the corridor for the room to be opened.

"I thought there would be a very large crowd because there were five or six other bills besides S. 975 on the markup agenda, but there were only about a dozen people," he recalled.

According to Hardiman, at 9:20 a.m. an aide stopped by and told those in the hallway of the change of venue. He could not say just where the hearing would take place, simply that it was in the Capitol building. He indicated it was in an area where the public is generally barred but claimed he didn't know the exact location.

Hardiman protested and pointed out that the Capitol has been virtually closed to the public since 9-11. Holding a meeting there would turn a normally open session into a closed one. The aide denied it was a closed hearing. It was still open, he insisted – only the room was closed to the public, not the meeting itself. What made it "open," presumably, was that persons with Hill press credentials or police-approved IDs would be admitted, though not Hardiman and other lobbyists or the general public.

"It's open if you can get in," the aide said. Hardiman says the staffer refused to give his name.

Double-talk on a daily basis

"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this kind of double-talk does go on in Washington, D.C., on a daily basis," Hardiman quipped in a news release.

A spokesperson for the Environment and Public Works Committee said the change was because two roll-call votes were announced late Wednesday afternoon for the following morning at 9:30 a.m. The new location was for the convenience of committee members so they could attend both the floor session and the committee hearing.

The floor vote was not for legislation, but to confirm two judicial nominees for U.S. District Courts in California. Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., an ardent proponent of S. 975, announced the pending roll call.

A chief of staff in the office of one of the committee senators denied any ulterior motive in moving the hearing, reiterating the convenience factor. He said it was "very common" to have markups off the Senate floor when floor votes are scheduled.

"There wasn't any sneak maneuver to get it done," he said. "What happens is that … you need a certain number of senators for a quorum to have a markup. If all the senators are on the floor voting it's very hard to get them back to the buildings for a markup. It was simply done for convenience."

Hardiman said that in his several years of experience as a Hill lobbyist and before that as a congressional staffer, the last-minute room change – with no notice given and no details as to the new location – was "highly unusual."

"There are always floor votes going on, and last-minute scheduling changes are made," he said. "However, the way that changes are handled is either that the beginning of the committee markup is moved to a later time or the room location is changed to one of the office buildings nearer the Capitol."

In either case, changes are announced in the morning edition of the Washington Post, the Washington Times and several Hill insider newsletters. He said no announcement had been made of the room and time change in these publications.

"But then, when you have something to hide it's always more convenient to work in secret where nobody can watch," he said. "They didn't even want to tell us where the location was after it was changed."

Indeed, details of the new location for the hearing were not posted on the door of the original room until after 9:30 a.m, when those in the corridor had left.

Hardiman noted that traveling the distance between the Dirksen Office Building and the Senate Chamber is a matter of minutes, because there is a special underground trolley linking the office buildings and the Capitol.

"After the roll call, all they'd have to do is get on the elevator in the Senate to the trolley stop, jump on the trolley and they'd be at Dirksen in 10 minutes. They don't even need to walk," he said.

Hardiman pointed out that the "No. 1 Democrat" in the Senate is Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who is notorious for holding up President Bush's judicial nominations. Daschle has been frequently absent this session on fund-raising and other party matters, and various responsibilities have fallen to Reid. Reid is not only the "No. 2 Democrat" in the Senate, he's the senior Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

"So when Sen. Reid on the floor of the Senate makes an announcement that next day there are to be roll call votes on some nominations – well, since he's the senior Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, he knows when he's stepping on the votes of his own committee," Hardiman said.

A spokesperson in Reid's office said he did not think the senator would know the hows and whys of a room change. "That's a staff thing," he said. "The senator wouldn't be involved with that, any more than the president would know who maintained and put gas in Air Force One."

An additional detail lends credibility to charges of duplicity. The largely Democratic leadership tried to restrict the record to a voice vote, "to keep it secret and hide their actions from the public," said Hardiman.

Reporter Audrey Hudson, with the Washington Times, having learned of the room change from the notice tacked on the door, attended the meeting. Here is her account of the efforts by Republicans to register their votes.

"Mr. Jeffords, the panel chairman, started to move the bills on a voice vote, but Republicans called for the vote to be recorded.

"As the vote came to a close, Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican and an imposing figure in the small room, said, 'You didn't call my name, and I am the ranking member,' as Republicans whispered to one another to keep the vote public, but they failed.

"Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said Republicans were told that the committee would vote after the two Senate [roll call] votes and urged that the committee vote remain open.

"'Some of our members wish to be recorded,' said Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican."

The vote, which was recorded, went along party lines, with Democrats in favor and all but two Republicans opposed. Here is the breakdown:

Those in favor were Sen. James Jeffords and Democratic Sens. Reid, Max Baucus, Mont., Bob Graham, Fla., Joseph Lieberman, Conn., Barbara Boxer, Calif., Ron Wyden, Ore., Tom Carper, Del., Hillary Clinton, N.Y., Jon Corzine, N.J. and Republican Sens. Lincoln Chaffee, R.I., and Arlen Specter, Pa.

Those opposed were Republican Sens. James Inhofe, Okla., Bob Smith, N.H., John Warner, Va., Christopher Bond, Mo., George Voinovich, Ohio, Mike Crapo, Idaho, and Pete Dominici, N.M.

Hudson reported that Republicans told her that the decision as to where to hold the meeting was "out of their control, as Democrats rule the committee."

Sen. Inhofe, who spearheaded the opposition in the committee, was one of two senators to file a statement objecting to S. 975. In it he expressed concerns about the extension of federal jurisdiction over state and local land use decisions and the role of the Secretary of Commerce.

The bill, said the senator, "raises potential constitutional questions under the 10th Amendment, where powers not expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution, like zoning and land-use decisions, are reserved to the local and state governments."

By voting the bill out of committee "we are saying it is 'OK' for the federal government to get involved in state, local and tribal land-use planning, and … [that] local land-use planning is not important" – a "dangerous precedent," he warned.

Moreover, "I have grave concerns with the notion of the Secretary of Commerce evaluating a state's need for federal funds and then prescribing the criteria for the content of the state plan, an area where the Secretary of Commerce can claim no particular expertise or authority."

"The federal government should respect the authority and expertise of these localities to make land-use decisions without dangling a 'carrot' so that they adopt planning legislation acceptable to the federal government," he said.

Mike Crapo, the second senator to file an objection in writing, noted that in order to be eligible for a grant, a state or tribal government must include "recognized approaches to land use planing" in their land use grant proposals. "In my view, this essentially requires the state or tribe to utilize planning approaches outlined in federal guidelines or forfeit any opportunity to receive a grant," he said.

Robert Harrison, director of policy for the Defenders of Property Rights, a nonprofit legal group based in Washington, D.C., planned to attend the hearing to observe how the vote went, but, like Hardiman, had not known of the room switch and only found out about it from a notice tacked on the door.

Regulators' bible

Defenders have been actively organizing opposition to S. 975 as the bill is the funding mechanism for states to set in motion the processes detailed in the American Planning Association's massive Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook, that was released in February.

"S. 975 is the gasoline that's going to drive the car, no question about it," Harrison told WorldNetDaily.

As WorldNetDaily reported in November, the 1,500-page tome – funded in part by a $1.7 million grant from HUD – is a collection of proposed laws and ordinances (with commentary), drafted by the APA that it hopes states and local governments will enact to authorize planning, land-use controls, regulations, procedural processes and revisions to existing policies. If state legislatures do enact them, the statutes would place new requirements on state agencies and local governments to enact often-significant changes to their existing land-use and development ordinances.

Harrison said that the guidebook is referenced "only tangentially," not by name in the Community Character Act.

"It gives block grant funding to states for land-use planning provided they utilize recognized planning standards and planners," he explained. "Well, the APA's American Institute of Certified Planners is the only certification group around. It was very subtly done. You will not see the letters APA or AICP in the bill."

The term "smart growth," too, is missing from the bill, though it is the lynchpin of the land-use policy promoted by the guidebook. But the APA, in a press release, hailed the committee's approval of S. 975 proclaiming that the bill would provide "a much-needed incentive to help states and localities initiate and implement smart-growth planning strategies."

Specifically, to be eligible for a grant a state or tribal government must demonstrate that the land-use planning activities are "comprehensive in nature" and will, among other things:

Promote environmental protection;

Promote sustainable economic development (including regional economic development) and social equity;

Enhance community character;

Result in multijurisdictional governmental cooperation … particularly in the case of land-use plans based on watershed boundaries;

Provide for the periodic updating of land-use plans; and

Include approaches that are consistent with established professional land-use planning standards. Grant funds must be used "to carry out, or obtain technical assistance with which to carry out – development or revision of land-use planning legislation … and integration of state, regional, tribal or local land-use plans with federal land-use plans." (emphasis added)

Harrison said the amount of opposition surprised the sponsors. Although he wasn't at the hearing, he heard that Warner and Inhofe "raised some hell in there."

Asked what he foresees as an outcome, Harrison responded, "We've managed to slow it down a bit" and defeating it is a "winnable" goal. He said that the sponsors and promoters now know there's serious opposition and that this is no "warm, fuzzy ordinary block grant bill." They further realize it might face defeat in the House, even if it passes the Senate.

"There's no appetite in a Republican-controlled House to move a piece of legislation like this. None," he said. However, rather than pursue it as a stand-alone bill, the sponsors might try a different tack.

"My sense is that they'll look for a larger bill, an omnibus bill, and try and stick it in that," he warned. "Probably, it would be an appropriations bill."

"It will require watching, as any of the main promoters could slip it into one of their own bills, so my concern is being able to track it and generate some holds on it," he said.

A companion bill – H.R. 1433, with the same title, sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., was also introduced last year, but has not moved. H.R. 1433 is somewhat different from S. 975. It puts the Housing and Urban Development Department in charge of the grant-dispersal program rather than Commerce and appropriates twice as much in funding – $50 million a year instead of $25 million.

S. 975 is ready to go to the Senate floor, but it is unclear when that will happen. Hardiman feels it will be at least a few weeks, and may be put off for several months. "It will depend on the relative strength of the support and opposition," he said.

Both bills may be accessed through the homepages of either the House or Senate.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: freedom
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this is backdoor way to take your land from you
1 posted on 05/02/2002 12:19:26 PM PDT by Patriotman
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To: Patriotman
It was a document Smith claimed was a mechanism for the federalization of land use in the United States, something many states and many Americans have opposed for years.
2 posted on 05/02/2002 12:23:55 PM PDT by Patriotman
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To: Patriotman
That's OK - if they want a civil war, they're going to get it.
3 posted on 05/02/2002 12:33:45 PM PDT by Noumenon
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To: Patriotman
A backdoor the size of an aircraft hangar. I am despirately hoping courts can kill it. Local zoning laws are so corrupt. Favoritism, corruption, bribery, are the present day operations of such boards. Add some federal money into the mix and I see them becoming a real viscious tool.

I just received notice from my county that I now have to kill all the weeds on my property that are on the list provided. Failure to do so will result in legal action by the county. I have over 160 acres to "weed inventory". Just plain nuts!

4 posted on 05/02/2002 12:40:21 PM PDT by blackdog
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To: Patriotman
The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island and co-sponsored by Vermont Sen. James Jeffords, a former Republican, now Independent.

Some more 'limited-government' Republican action? Didn't think so. What's $25 million a year between friends for bigger government (both in size and power)?

When are Republicans going to start truly being in favor of 'limited government' instead of being sponsors of bigger government at every turn?

'Limited government' sounds a lot like 'responsible increases in spending' (to quote Dubya) instead of any limitations on its size or power.

5 posted on 05/02/2002 12:42:17 PM PDT by zoyd
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To: Patriotman
"It was pretty sleazy," said Mike Hardiman, lobbyist for American Land Rights Association, a nonprofit grass-roots advocacy group based in Battleground, Wash. "Clearly, the Democrats didn't want anyone there, so they arranged the night before to move the meeting room and didn't tell anyone."

OK are they allowed to do this and go behind close doors???

6 posted on 05/02/2002 12:44:42 PM PDT by Mo1
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To: Patriotman
Our honest elected officals at their best, screwing the voters.

Another one of millions of reasons for term limits.

Maybe one day God will say to man, "If you can find just one honest elected offical, I will spare all elected officals".

7 posted on 05/02/2002 12:44:58 PM PDT by chiefqc
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To: Patriotman
So, when Daschle was complaining about a secret government, is this what he was referring to?


8 posted on 05/02/2002 12:49:05 PM PDT by Political Junkie Too
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To: Patriotman
Back door my Aunt Fanny!! This is nothing more than the U.N.'s "Sustainable Development", "Agenda 21" and their "Desertification Treaty" all coming to a town near you! These low-life, pond-scum sucking power-elite are getting ready to take over YOUR (and OUR) land to make the global bankers happy!! There can be NO freedom with property rights!!
9 posted on 05/02/2002 1:00:02 PM PDT by KentuckyWoman
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To: Jeff Head
FYI................Stay Safe !
10 posted on 05/02/2002 1:07:15 PM PDT by Squantos
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To: chiefqc
I'd hardly call Chafee or Spector honest.
11 posted on 05/02/2002 1:10:53 PM PDT by OldFriend
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To: Mo1
They did it for "Son of CARA."
12 posted on 05/02/2002 1:26:02 PM PDT by sauropod
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To: zoyd
I would hardle call Caffee, Spector or Jeffords republicans.
13 posted on 05/02/2002 1:27:34 PM PDT by jimtorr
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To: Noumenon; countrydummy
Now you begin to understand, my friend. Tip of the Iceberg.

While Middle America contents itself w/ BinLaden Survivor, and the middle east crisis, their own property is being stolen from them under their very own noses.

From property rights do all other rights flow.

Rectitudine Sto. Sauropod

14 posted on 05/02/2002 1:28:41 PM PDT by sauropod
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To: Patriotman
Remember folks, this is the SAME Senate many freepers were defending for passint the Partiot Act and then SUDDENLY worrying about our Constitutional rights.

I said it stunk. I was right.

15 posted on 05/02/2002 1:29:44 PM PDT by cake_crumb
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To: KentuckyWoman; Jeff Head; Squantos
KW, you do understand. Thank you for that.

Having read most of the stuff u mentioned, it will be even worse than that. Ever hear of "Smart Growth?"


16 posted on 05/02/2002 1:30:22 PM PDT by sauropod
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To: Patriotman
I am against zoning of any kind and the fact this was done in secret shows the democraps are the most dishonest people on earth.ANYTHING AND BY ANY MEANS THEY WILL USURP THE CONSTITUTION!
17 posted on 05/02/2002 1:41:07 PM PDT by INSENSITIVE GUY
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To: Noumenon
In spades...


18 posted on 05/02/2002 1:45:34 PM PDT by Lurker
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To: Reagan Man
Hey, more principled conservatism from the Pubbies.


19 posted on 05/02/2002 1:46:09 PM PDT by Lurker
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To: zoyd
will the Republican standup four FREEDOM??
20 posted on 05/02/2002 1:50:09 PM PDT by Patriotman
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