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Arizona Tea Party-Backed Bill Gutting Sustainability Efforts Advances

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WASHINGTON -- An Arizona Tea Party-backed bill that would gut government-run green programs in the state may have the support it needs to go before Gov. Jan Brewer (R).

In a preliminary voice vote on Wednesday, the Arizona House approved a bill introduced by Tea Party member Rep. Judy Burges (R-Sun City West) with the stated goal of preventing "social engineering ... including where we live, what we eat."

Burges' bill, Senate Bill 1507, targets a United Nations declaration promoting international environmental sustainability, which was adopted by the governments of 172 nations -- including the United States under the George H. W. Bush Administration -- in 1992. Conspiracy theories about the non-binding plan to foster environmental stewardship have long been entertained by conservative organizations such as the John Birch Society, which refers to the declaration as "Agenda 21."

"Agenda 21 seeks for the government to curtail your freedom to travel as you please, own a gas-powered car, live in suburbs or rural areas, and raise a family," a statement on the group's website proclaims. "Furthermore, it would eliminate your private property rights through eminent domain."

Under the Burges bill, the state and its political subdivisions would be prohibited from adopting or implementing any of the declaration's tenets aimed at sustainability. Critics fear that if the bill becomes law it will quash government-funded green programs throughout the state, including a $25 million stimulus program that provides energy-efficient improvements to homes and businesses along a 10-mile stretch of Phoenix's light rail corridor.

All "political subdivisions," including the state, counties and cities, are also prohibited from giving any money to the U.N. declaration's initiatives or aiding any of its programs in any way under the bill. They are also barred from aiding "any of its related organizations," including the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Local Action for Biodiversity, among others.

Tea Party-backed conservative Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert) called for the voice vote, and said he believed the United Nations does not have the United States' best interests at heart. "I have concerns about us giving up our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Court," he said, according to AZ Central.com.

The House must hold a final roll-call vote before the bill can head to Brewer's desk.

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