Build Your Own Border Wall Bill Dead for Now in #AZLeg (video)

US-Mexico Border Wall in Nogales

Majority Leader Rep. Warren Petersen’s (R-Gilbert) build your own border wall bill (HB2084) moved quickly through the process in the Arizona House. It was assigned to the Federal Relations and Rules Committees on the first day of the 2020 session. It passed out of Rep. Mark Finchem’s (R- Oro Valley) federalism committee last week, out of House Rules on Monday, heard in Caucus on Tuesday, and debated and voted on on January 30, 2020. This highly ideological bill was the second bill we voted on this session. [This story has been updated from the previous story regarding HB2084.]

In an unexpected point of high drama on the House Floor, Rep. Tony Rivero voted “no” on HB2084 with all 29 Democrats. Bills need 31 votes to pass. If one Republican has the nerve to buck their party and stand with the Democrats, a bill doesn’t pass. HB2084 got 30. Unfortunately, minutes after the 30-30 vote was called, Petersen was at Rivero’s desk asking him to read the reconsideration within two weeks language. (This is how bad bills rise again as zombie bills.)

HB2084 waives building permits and other regulations to allow landowners on the border to build sections of the Border Wall to help President Trump fulfill his campaign promise. There are no standards in the bill. People can build whatever they want. Is it irony, poetic justice, Mother Nature, or the “Hand of God” that knocked down a section of Trump’s border wall during the same week that Petersen’s no permits bill? Let’s see, didn’t Jesus say something about welcoming the stranger?

In caucus, Rep. Diego Rodriguez (D-South Phoenix) pointed out that HB2084 was proposed to facilitate the We Build The Wall Go Fund Me project. According to an article in the Phoenix New Times, the website vows to raise $25 million to help landowners build sections of the Border Wall. Hmmm…

No permits or inspections? What could go wrong? Sections of the Border Wall have collapsed under the forces of Mother Nature in the past. In fact, we are now learning that gates in the Border Wall have to be left open to for months to mitigate flooding. From the New York Magazine

“Overlooking the hydrology of the desert Southwest is one of several examples of how the Trump administration’s neglect of the specific demands of the region has undermined the project. The White House has failed to account for just how long it takes to acquire private property along the border — a key reason for the massive delay in wall-building thus far. (Despite $18.4 billion allocated to the project, just 100 miles of barrier have been built, the majority of which serves as a replacement of existing structures.) Federal and state parks may also have to be divvied up — including major sections of the wall carving up the biological hotspot of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which has been 40 years in the making.

“As the White House rushes the long-delayed project to have something to show to the base before the November election, other natural barriers are going to get in the way of the wall. As the Post notes, as the Trump administration pushes for construction beyond established areas, it will be forced to build on mountainous and ever-more-remote terrain, requiring larger and more frequent storm gates to accommodate waterflow.”

This news comes in the same week the Arizona Daily Star revealed private contractors are tagging old growth trees along the San Pedro River for removal to make way for a Border Wall across the river. Luckily, according to the Star, the contractor who was awarded the project hasn’t figured out how to build a wall across an active river without creating floods. (No one even mentions the riparian habitat along the San Pedro. My spidey sense tells me that Mother Nature is ready to make another show of force– since humans aren’t paying attention.)

Finchem added an amendment to say that the wall sections have to built “according to the plan”. What plan? People can build whatever they want. If this actually happened, besides being an environmental disaster, it would be a hodge podge lodge of bad design with gaps.

Let’s be clear. HB2084 has nothing to do with building a Border Wall or deregulating building permits for ranchers on the border. This is all about suburban Republicans trying to whip up their base with anti-immigrant rhetoric.

At the Arizona Republican State Committee Meeting last Saturday, Governor Ducey, Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, and AZGOP Chair Kelly Ward told their delegates that they must be “One with Trump”. The build your own Border Wall bill shows that the 16 House members and one Senator who signed it are “One with Trump.” Ironically, only one of the members who signed it– Rep. Becky Nutt– actually represents border residents in the Legislature (and, in Midtown Tucson, I live closer to the border than she does).

There are so many reasons why this bill is unnecessary and environmentally and physically dangerous. Let’s get down to business and stop wasting time on ideology.