This vote was on passage of H.R. 324, which would have established the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in southern Arizona. National heritage areas have been established to preserve sections that are of “national significance.” The term “national significance” has been used in this context by The National Park Service as meaning that the areas possesses “unique natural, historical, cultural, educational, scenic, or recreational resources of exceptional value or quality.” Twenty-four national heritage areas have been established by Congress.
The area that was covered by this bill amounted to 3,325 square miles, including a portion that bordered on the city of Tucson. Much of that area was developable ranch land. It also contained several major copper mines, and land that had other mineral deposits. Once an area is designated a national heritage area, the federal government has some voice in such matters as zoning. The supporters of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area stated that its creation would have no negative effects on private property, ranching, mining, or mineral exploration.
Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), part of whose district would have been included in the proposed heritage area, sponsored the bill. He characterized the support for it in his district and in the district of Rep. Giffords (D-AZ), part of which was also included in the proposed heritage area, as “astounding.” He said: “(E)very county, municipality, tribe, federal and state park and land management agency within the proposed heritage area, plus a long list of chambers of commerce, tourism organizations, conservation and historic preservation groups, ranchers, farmers and businesses, all support H.R. 324.
Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) opposed the bill. He acknowledged that that National Heritage Area program is “well intended”. However, Lamborn claimed that it “has no established framework” and had “a lack of guidance (regarding) . . . basic property rights protections.” Lamborn added: “(U)nfortunately, this bill does not have sufficient protection for the property owners within the boundaries of this area, and it is likely many of them have no idea that they are to be included.” He noted that property owners may “refrain from participation'' under the formal rules regulating the heritage area, but warned that “nothing changes the fact that this bill places them within a new federal designation that provides a basis for ambitious federal land managers to claim that they now have a mandate and millions of federal dollars to interfere with local decisions affecting their neighbors' property.”
Rep. Grijalva responded “that during the 20-plus years of this (national heritage) program's existence, opponents have not been able to identify a single instance in which someone has been deprived of the use of their property as a result of this designation . . . The Government Accountability Office even investigated potential property rights violations and found none. Nevertheless, this bill contains extensive private property provisions.”
H.R. 324 was considered under a procedure typically used for legislation that the House leadership does not anticipate will be controversial. Under this procedure, the usual rules are suspended and debate is limited. Also, a two-thirds vote is required for passage, rather than the usual majority. The vote was 249-145.Two hundred and thirty-three Democrats and sixteen Republicans voted “aye”. All one hundred forty-five “nay” votes were cast by Republicans. Since the two-thirds vote required under this procedure was not achieved, the measure that would have established the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area did not pass. The result did not prevent the measure from being brought up again under regular House procedures, which would require only a majority vote for passage.