How legislative Rules committees abort democratic HOA reform bills

In the interest of public education on the functioning of state legislatures, this paper presents information on the rules governing state legislatures — using Arizona as a representative example — that affect passing bills into law.  I focus on the Rules committee’s powers to obstruct the voice of the people, and how it can prevent — kill — HOA reform bills by the actions of the political party leaders.

The powers of the Rules committee are undemocratic and authoritarian  in nature designed to thwart, apparently, the folly of the voice of the people.  We see the same undemocratic, authoritarian powers granted to HOA boards to an even greater extent,  The national lobbying group’s promotion of the “business judgment rule,” and acceptance by the courts, is a prime example.[1]

Exhibit 1 details the Rules powers that can prevent HOA reform bills, and any other bill not liked by the powers that be, from a hearing and vote by the full chamber — by the people’s representatives. As I wrote earlier[2], Arizona’s HB 2052, a bill that has in reality been killed in the Rules committee after unanimous approval by the House and Senate government committees, is a prime example of this misuse of authority.

The Senate Fact Sheet “intro” paragraph misrepresents the content of the bill:

“Expands statutory restrictions on condominium unit owners’ association and planned community association (HOA) regulation of political signs to include signs related to certain community activity. Prohibits an HOA from prohibiting door-to-door community activity”.

Of the 8 listed “Provisions,” 2 are technical, 2 relate to political signs, and 4 — given a short sentence in the “intro” —  expand on HOA restrictions and prohibition’s protecting free political speech and expression, in the HOA public forum,[3] as curtained in my earlier “Senate Protects” posting.[4]

. . . .

The Arizona Legislature, and each and every state legislature, is  not a sovereign that can do no wrong, but has duties and obligations sworn to under oath “to establish justice . . . and secure the blessings of liberty” for the people of its state. It cannot demand respect but must earn it through good deeds.  Passing HB 2052 into law would be a sign of good faith that would earn the respect of the people.

Exhibit 1.  Arizona Legislative Council publications

“In the Senate, bills are usually not “held” in the Rules Committee for partisan or political purposes; bills which go into the Rules Committee are almost always reported out. In the House, the Chairman of the Rules Committee can “hold” (read “kill”) a bill simply by not giving it a hearing. (p. 52).

“The options of the committee chairman are a) Hear the bill and vote on it, b) Hear the bill but take no action, c) Assign the bill to subcommittee, d) Not hear the bill.  (p. 39-40).”

“The Role of the Rules Committee,”  State Senator Randall Gnant, From Idea to Bill to Law (2000). (As of April 2021).

“Each measure is assigned to the Rules Committee of the house through which it is progressing . . . . The Rules Committees assess the constitutionality of the proposed legislation. Unless they are withdrawn or discharged, all bills must pass the Rules Committee before they are heard on the floor. (p.41-42).

“An Active Calendar of the Committee of the Whole (so called in both houses) consisting of bills the Speaker or President selects for consideration by the respective Committee of the Whole (COW).

“A calendar consisting of all bills and other measures that have been reported from the committees. In the House this is called the “House Calendar.”  In the Senate it is called the “Calendar of the Committee of the Whole.” These calendars are simply a list of bills and other measures that are ready for further action by the full chamber.” (p.42-43).

Arizona Legislative Manual 2003 Edition, Arizona Legislative Council (2003). (As of April 2021).

Notes


[1] See, Reorienting the HOA board: business judgment rule (2020).

[2] See, AZ Senate protects HOA misconduct rejecting HB 2052; Arizona HB 2052 restores homeowner constitutional speech protections.

[3] See court holdings: Calif. holds HOA elections as protected free speech public elections (2019); NV supreme court upholds HOAs as public forums (2021).

[4] Supra n. 2, AZ Senate Protects.

AZ Senate protects HOA misconduct rejecting HB 2052

The Arizona Senate is still sitting on HB 2052 since a month ago, March 1st,  a bill providing for member participation in HOA governance.  The bill  explicitly states, since the CC&Rs is seen as a contract, what the HOA cannot do and must allow for fair elections and meaningful  participation in HOA governance.

In the past I’ve addressed this constitutional question of fair elections in the HOA model of an authoritarian,  business form of governance.  I’ve provided examples of incidents and court cases reflecting this denial of fair elections, which exist in the public domain, as if the HOA is afraid of the democratic voice of its members.

In this writing I will call to your attention how an upscale, over 1,000 member HOA board — as a representative example of such HOAs — refuses to accept the facts laid before it that provide valid cause to conduct a due diligence examination; and to validate its positions in regard to its fiduciary obligations of good faith conduct and obedience to the governing documents.

Below I’ve copied parts of its application package provided to all candidates for  a director’s position. The package material clearly shows the BOD’s awareness of its fiduciary obligations and its required treatment with respect to the membership.

Obligations  and liabilities of directors

“Directors have a fiduciary duty to the Association and to each member.

“The duty of loyalty requires that:   Directors act in good faith  pursuant to a free, honest exercise of judgment not influenced by considerations other than the best interest of the Association.

“Failure to discharge the fiduciary duty can subject the Association to liability and subject the Director to personal liability. A Director can also be liable for illegal or tortuous acts of the Board of the Association if he/she participates in the decision to authorize the acts or knowingly fails to take steps to avoid the action. “[Emphasis added].

HOA control of the candidate process and campaigning

Getting down to the specific application of HB 2052, the relevant HOA’s candidacy procedures follow, with the opening line stating: “The Campaign and Election Policies have been carefully developed to provide a fair and clean process for candidates and all members.

While the specific policies are not clearly stated as whether prohibited or permitted, the overall tone is definitely of a prohibitive nature. The 14 points are shown as Exhibit 1 below. In sum, they include not using email listings; association facilities or agencies, clubs, etc. websites; no right to hold Q & A sessions independent of HOA;  no right to campaign through social media —  Facebook, Instagram, etc.; all advertising must be HOA approved; distributing flyers outside restaurants, presumably those within the HOA, or on common areas.

The policies of this HOA, and many other large-scale HOA are similar but not so detailed, demonstrate the failure of the board directors to act in good faith and as a fiduciary for the members.  For the HOA to argue that “The ends justify the means and we determine what’s good for the members, but the HOA entity comes first” is unsatisfactory and irrelevant. These policies reflect an authoritarian government that accepts the rejection of fundamental member democratic rights and privileges because they can hide behind the questionable legality of the CC&Rs.

There can be no excuse for HOA directors not being aware of the voluminous materials available for conducting their due diligence with respect to democratic, fair elections and member participation in HOA governance. They have been given plenty of notice, which subjects them to personal liabilities and prevents them from hiding behind “my attorney said it was OK,” or from acts of omission – doing nothing. 

This representative HOA’s policy so informs them of their liability. Yet, nothing is done to correct these violations of good faith. And still the directors, officers, and managers all demand respect! It’s shameless!

What is going on, you may ask?  Well, the board is setting policy for the acceptance of candidates without a vote of the membership. In other words, unless the proposed candidates are accepted by the BOD, the members have lost a candidate of their choosing. They have lost a meaningful participation in the governing of the HOA; they cannot disagree with the establishment!  So, if you thought your HOA was democratic, forget about it! 

Also, the BOD controls how candidates acceptable to them can campaign, placing severe restrictions not found in the fair public elections procedures.  See Exhibit 1 below. Again, members have lost their right to fair and free elections in HOA matters.

AZ Senate’s rejection of HB 2052

It is easily seen that  the AZ Senate supports these undemocratic polices as represented by this HOA’s practices. 

I have maintained that,

“Public policy today rejects constitutional government for HOAs allowing them to operate outside the law of the land. The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.”

See, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape Constitutional government; Reorienting the HOA board – fair elections; HOA Common Sense, No. 6: Fair and just hearings

And furthermore, “CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local federal amd Arizona governments.”  … Privatopia (1994), Evan McKenzie.

It is not too late for the Senators to meet their obligations to uphold the federal and Arizona Constitutions by passing HB 2052 into law.

Exhibit 1. HOA BOD campaign policies.

  1. Using email listings, electronic or websites of Neighborhood Representatives and Alternates, Charter Clubs, Interest Groups, community and specialty groups.
  2. Addressing a formal . . . Group (e.g., Neighborhood Representative, Charter Club, Interest Group, specialty group meetings, sports venues, etc.). However, a person’s right to free speech in casual conversations shall not be restrained.
  3. Participating in formal Q&A sessions and programs other than those sponsored by the . . . Election Team.
  4. Using Association facilities for campaign events for individual candidates.
  5. Removing other candidates’ campaign flyers from approved locations.
  6. Using the official . . . website, Facebook or Instagram social media accounts to promote your campaign or to use your personal social media accounts to defame or incite defamation of candidates, engaging in unkind innuendoes / slander / harassment at any time or in any setting.
  7. Posting campaign flyers on street signs, trees, light poles, motor vehicles, golf cars, lawns, windows, auto windshields, or in commercial buildings.
  8. Defacing approved campaign flyers.
  9. Using balloons, buttons, t-shirts, marked-up election ballot, etc. as campaign tools.
  10. Using advertising of any type (other than approved campaign statement and/or approved personal correspondence).
  11. Using multiple versions of campaign flyers at the same time.
  12. Placing flyers in mailboxes (against the law).
  13. Distributing campaign flyers outside the entrance of or in the restaurants.
  14. Distributing campaign flyers in common areas except as noted.

Countrywide political culture cause of HOA reform failures

On this morning’s talk show, political discussion addressed the questions of the  Republican Party policy of applying strong power in order to stay in office, and what is the percent of Trump supporters who are hard core followers – cultists.  Will these dogmatic people remain loyal to Trump and to the Republican Party after the events at the Impeachment Trial?

Materials describing the growing trend toward authoritarianism[1] in America is well documented and reliable information can be found on the Internet.[2]

There are some people [authoritarian followers] for whom the system of checks and balances are bothersome and annoying, and dislike the noise and chaos of democracy. . . . [Authoritarians] understand their role, which is to defend the leaders, however dishonest their statement, however great their corruption, and however disastrous their impact on ordinary people and institutions.”[[3]

Talmon hits the nail on the head when he writes that “Citizens of a totalitarian democratic state, even when aware of their true powerlessness, may support their government.”[4] 

 In “Part 1, The Cultural Dynamics of HOA-Land” of my HOA-Land Nation,[5] I present my analysis of  the forces at work dominating the politics within the HOA private government. 

Basically, the HOA legal structure and scheme is authoritarian in nature: strong central power, limited political freedoms, no accountability, and under the rule of man, not law. The authoritarian nature of HOA-Land is masked by a thorough indoctrination that presents a false picture of the real estate subdivision as democratic, inappropriately named a community, simply because the members are allowed to vote, as meaningless as it is.

Getting back to HOA-Land, it becomes disturbing that the application of authoritarianism and totalitarian democracy philosophy seems to fit quite well. Too well at that! [6]

HOA Consultant

* * * *

The same dynamics at work in HOA-Land[7] are well evident in Impeachment Trial II of Donald J. Trump[8] and reveal the new political forces at work in all of America. The trial brief stated, among other things,

The only honorable path at that point was for President Trump to accept the results and concede his electoral defeat. Instead, he summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue. (p. 75).

By the day of the rally, President Trump had spent months using his bully pulpit to insist that the Joint Session of Congress was the final act of a vast plot to destroy America. As a result— and as had been widely reported—the crowd was armed, angry, and dangerous.  (p.2).

President Trump has demonstrated beyond doubt that he will resort to any method to maintain or reassert his grip on power. A President who violently attacks the democratic process has no right to participate in it. Only after President Trump is held to account for his actions can the Nation move forward with unity of purpose and commitment to the Constitution. (p. 5).

* * * *

Today’s politicos are talking about a third party with Trump as its leader, mainly from Republicans.  A Gallup survey[9] shows that there is no majority party in the US, counting Independents as a party: Republicans and Democrats are about 25% each and Independents now 50%.  (In Nov.  2016 it was 27% Republicans, 30% Democrats and, 40% Independents). 

It will be an interesting new US political scenery; what will happen who knows.

How many Republicans, government officials,  and the general public supporters of Trump remain loyal after the events of the Day of Infamy, January 6, 2021?  With Trump out of office, but able to run again, how much power will this authoritarian leader retain?  It seems the Congress, the WH, and Americans in general need to examine their moral positions and ask themselves, Did I do right? Did I do the honorable thing for America?

Notes


[1] Authoritarianism: favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom..

[2] See in general: Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Doubleday (2020); Amanda Taub, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” Vox (March 1, 2016); Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, 2007.

[3] Id., Applebaum.

[4] J. L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, Penguin Books (1986, first published 1952).

[5] George K. Staropoli,  The HOA-Land Nation Within America, StarMan Press, 2019.

[6] George K. Staropoli,  HOA political dynamics: totalitarian democracy (2019).

[7] HOA-Land is a collection of fragmented independent principalities within America, known in general as “HOAs,” that are separate local private governments not subject to the constitution, and that collectively constitute a nation within the United States.  Latest estimate at this writing is that some 23% of Americans live in HOA-Land.

[8] Articles of Impeachment, H. RES. 24, (2021). See House_trial_brief;  Trump answer; House answer response.

[9] Party Affiliation, Gallup (Feb. 15, 2021.

America cannot be completely unified with HOAs

America cannot be completely unified with HOA-Land not subject to Constitution

Our new #PresidentBiden and #VicePresidentHarris have a task before them if they truly seek to unite America.  There are some 23% of Americans live under special laws for special entities known as #HOAs – #homeownerassociations – that are authoritarian local governments not subject to the #Constitution as required by all local and state governments.

In total, these fragmented HOAs constitute The HOA-Land Nation within America, actively encouraged and supported by all state legislatures to some degree or another.  Only the federal government can act Restoring the lost Constitution to HOA-Land.  I brought this very need to the attention of the Trump presidency with no results (Rogue presidents: Trump and HOAs). A Plan Toward Restructuring the HOA Model of Governance has been proposed to this effect.

I now call upon President Biden and Vice President Harris to truly unite all Americans under the Constitution and the laws of the land.

Authoritarianism in the HOA-Land Nation

“There are a lot of Americans who do not care for democracy. They do not mind [failing] to follow the Constitution, or that [it] poses a danger to democracy.[1]

The HOA legal structure and scheme is basically authoritarian in nature: strong central power, limited political freedoms, no accountability, and under the rule of man, not law. 

There are some people [authoritarian followers] for whom the system of checks and balances are bothersome and annoying, and dislike the noise and chaos of democracy”.[2]  

“People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.”[3]

The HOA is truly a totalitarian democracy.

“A totalitarian democracy . . . retains full power of . . .  the right of control over everything and everyone. Maintenance of such power, in the absence of full support of the citizenry, requires the forceful suppression of any dissenting element except what the government purposely permits or organizes.”[4]

The authoritarianism of HOA-Land [5] is masked by a thorough indoctrination[6] that the real estate subdivision is a democratic community because the members are allowed to vote, as meaningless as it is. It seems that the more predisposed to authoritarian control the more the member acts as a diehard, dogmatic, true-believer in the BOD.

In 2019  I conducted a limited study on authoritarian followers in HOAs following the stablished research procedures[7] to determine the extent of authoritarianism in the HOA  setting.[8]  I found that,

“High RWA followers can be found in HOA members. My concern focused on the blind, to me, acquiescence to whatever the BOD told the members what it wanted approved, especially when it involved amendments to the governing documents. When presented with hard, concrete evidence of violations of the law or governing documents, the majority of the members just gave the BOD a blank check.”

The above chart (responses to 30 questions)  shows the degree of authoritarianism based on percentages: the higher, the stronger the authoritarian presence. “3Q” reflects HOA responses to 3 strict “control” preference questions in the survey, as a BOD member or not. The middle 2 bars reflect all the results from all HOA respondents and the lower 2 reflect HOA members or not – the public. 

The prevalence of authoritarian followers is clearly indicated with respect to the HOA’s “enforcement” attitude. The authoritarian culture of HOA-Land contributes to the decline in American democracy. “[Authoritarians] seek to . . . rewrite social contracts, and, sometimes, to alter the rule of democracy so they never lose power. Alexander Hamilton warned against them.”[9]

This study on HOA-Land authoritarianism is consistent with research findings with respect to the general public and political leanings.[10]  “[Authoritarians] understand their role, which is to defend the leaders, however dishonest their statement, however great their corruption, and however disastrous their impact on ordinary people and institutions.”[11]

References


[1] Verdict” email from Justia.

[2] Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Doubleday (2020).

[3] Amanda Taub, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” Vox (March 1, 2016).

[4] George K. Staropoli, “HOA political dynamics: totalitarian democracy,” The HOA-Land Nation Within America, StarMan Publishing (2019). J. L. Talmon quote.

[5] Authoritarianism: favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom..

[6] CAI’s effect on the BOD, the members — especially the loyal “followers” — and the public in general stems from 45 years of indoctrination by means of the CAI School of HOA Governance. See in general, Restructuring HOAs: “CAI School and member benefits” pt. 2 (2020).

[7] Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, 2007.

[8] George K. Staropoli, “Preliminary HOA – public survey report,” HOA Constitutional Government (2019). Links to detailed report.

[9] Supra, n.2, p. 20.

[10] Supra, n. 3.

[11] Supra, n. 2., p. 25.