Legislation had been developed to designate the Santa Cruz Valley region of southern Arizona as a national heritage area. National heritage areas are regions of historical and cultural significance that are given this particular designation to encourage their preservation and to promote their public appreciation. The National Park Service has ten criteria for proposed heritage areas. This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms under which the House could debate the Santa Cruz Valley legislation. Under House procedures, before a bill can be debated, the House must first approve a resolution containing the “rule” setting the terms for its consideration.
The Santa Cruz Valley is one of America's longest inhabited regions, with traces of human occupation extending back more than 12,000 years. The designated heritage area included two national parks and two national historic trails, many prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, as well as state and county parks, designated scenic highways back-country trails and 32 museums and 102 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rep Cardoza (D-CA) was leading the support for the rule. He said that designating the Santa Cruz Valley as a heritage area would allow the National Park Service to support state and local conservation efforts in the heritage area “through federal recognition, seed money and technical assistance. This simply means that local groups will have the resources they need to educate the public about the historic, cultural and natural value of the area.” Cardoza argued that approving the legislation will help “ensure that America's history and natural wonderment is protected for future generations.”
Rep. Foxx (R-NC), was leading the effort against the rule. She first objected on procedural grounds. Foxx noted that the legislation designating the Santa Cruz Valley region as a national heritage area, for which the rule would permit debate, had not gone through the usual committee process. Foxx also opposed the legislation because of its cost. She noted that it “authorizes another $15 million in taxpayer dollars (at a time when) . . . The National Park Service currently has billions of dollars in maintenance backlogs.” She also noted that Congress had “created 10 new national heritage areas at a cost of $103.5 million” earlier in the session and that the bill “spends more taxpayer dollars to add yet another heritage area to a system already overburdened.” Foxx pointed to the fact that “the U.S. national debt stands at $11.8 trillion and counting . . . This year's deficit alone is expected to soar past $1.8 trillion . . . The time to rein in Federal spending is long overdue. Voting down this rule will take one small step in harnessing the federal government's spending.”
Foxx further argued against the rule and the bill because it “could lead to restrictive federal zoning and land use planning that usurps private property rights and blocks necessary energy development.” She added that “national heritage areas are . . . administered by a central managing entity, which includes the federal government . . . This means federal management plans can restrict our residential and commercial property owners to make use of their private property without any notice or warning.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 244-177 along almost straight party lines. Two hundred and forty-three Democrats and one Republican voted “aye”. One hundred and seventy-two Republicans and five Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin its formal debate on the legislation establishing the Santa Cruz Valley in Arizona as a national heritage area.