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.

Why isn’t your HOA board supporting AZ HB 2052?

HB 2052 is a big step forward for HOA homeowners in AZ as it restores lost constitutional rights. Why then, isn’t your board supporting this important bill that is unquestionably in the best interests of the members?  If you read your CC&Rs, almost all but not everyone contain a statement of intent and purpose directed toward the members, you will find wording similar to: “shall inure [take effect] to the benefit of the member and be mutually beneficial.” 

Upholding constitutional protections provided by the US Constitution would seem to fit a board’s obligation. However,

“The political and social changes in our society brought about by the adoption and acceptance of the HOA legal scheme has created a new America of authoritarian, private governments known as HOAs. They function as independent principalities.  The values, beliefs, principles, ethics, and morality of today’s America would shock the Founding Fathers.”[1] 

HB 2052 follows in the footsteps of California’s SB 323 and several court opinions upholding HOAs as public forums that provide for protective free public speech on HOA governing matters.[2]  

AZ Senate Rules committee must place  HB 2052 on the COW agenda. This important bill extends constitutional protections to HOA members.  It is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Rules Committee; time is running out! It was not heard on the 15th and today, the 17th. Bills have been killed by being held by Rules, which is a mandatory committee for all bills.

The public in general does not understand the functioning of their state legislature when it comes to its lawmaking powers under our democracy.  Our Declaration of Independence, our ‘social contract’ between the government and the people,  states quite clearly

That to secure these rights [‘among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness] governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

However, in many ways your legislature operates as the sovereign that can do no wrong. Take, for instance, the question of passing laws that are of questioned constitutionality.  Long standing legal doctrine holds that all laws passed by Congress or your state legislature are presumed constitutional.  This doctrine makes the primary function of legislative Rules Committees for checking constitutionality, among a minor formality issue, perfunctory and meaningless.

With the assistance of the Rules attorneys, the committees review the proposed legislation’s consistency with the United States and Arizona Constitutions and Arizona and federal law”[3]

In all my 20+ years I cannot recall any HOA bill being found unconstitutional by a Rules committee, even for one in 2013— by the same sponsor of HB 2052 — that was challenged in court and found unconstitutional.[4]

Members should be urging their boards to speak out.  Members would be protected and enjoy such constitutional freedoms to openly discuss issues of public HOA governance with their fellow members if  HB 2052  becomes law.  Make it a law – write the rules Committee and demand passing on the bill for a debate and a final vote by all Senators.

References


[1] George K. Staropoli, HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, StarMan Press, 2013.

[2] See Substantive HOA member rights advances in Arizona.

[3] As an example, from the Arizona Legislative Manual.

[4] See AZ Attorney General admits SB 1454 HOA to be invalid and without effect.

Are HOA state actors created by statutory use of shall/may?

The use of the words “shall” and “may” have generally accepted meanings in state laws and statutes.[1]  Their use in bills and laws relating to HOA-Land raises the highly controversial question of: Are HOAs state actors?  Wayne Hyatt — former CAI president – wrote in 1976 that HOAs were mini-governments.[2]  In general, a state actor is an entity that is functioning as “an arm of the state” or “in place of the state.”[3]  Does the use of “shall” that is defined as “mandatory” make the HOA an arm of the state?

In sum, the US Supreme Court criteria for classification of a state actor can be found in Brentwood:[4]

  1.  From the State’s exercise of “coercive power,”
  2. when the State provides “significant encouragement, either overt or covert,”
  3. when a private actor operates as a “willful participant in joint activity with the State or its agents
  4. when it is controlled by an “agency of the State,”
  5. when it has been delegated a public function by the State
  6. when it is “entwined with governmental policies,” or
  7. when government is “entwined in [its] management or control.”

In regard to the institutionalization of HOAs, or as I refer to it, HOA-Land, the above tests 1 – 3, and 5 -6 would provide clear and convincing evidence that the policies of state legislatures, as demonstrated by the enacted pro-HOA laws, have created HOAs as state actors who willingly undertake state actions.  Review your state laws for the use of “shall” and the consequences of that mandate on your individual property rights.

***

The pro-HOA laws enacted by state legislators, aside from other constitutional concerns with respect to the 14th Amendment protections of the equal protection of the law and valid due process, use “may” and “shall” that are permissive and mandatory obligations upon HOAs (and condos).  “May” is commonly found as “the board may set the time of the annual meeting,” or “may charge . . .”  The overlooked impact and consequence of this word is to legalize activities and actions that were all-to-fore not legal rights granted to the HOA.

They are now made a legal activity, if your BOD so chooses.   Prior to a statute using “may” the action or activity had to be granted by the governing documents.  If so, by including it in a statute lends “officialness” to the action, and a very difficult process to declare the statute invalid.  It protects the governing documents if so permitted.

The right granted by the use of “may” to HOA boards (BOD) to fine or monetarily penalize members and filing a lien with the right to foreclose, for example, makes it a legal action not granted to other nonprofit organizations.  Can you imagine PBS or United Fund placing a lien on your failure to not pay your pledge to support their existence? No way!  Why allow HOAs this legal right?  Which of the above criteria does it violate?

***

Now the heart of the matter focuses on the use of “shall” that is a mandatory order to the HOA to act on behalf of the state —  fine those members and collect costs including attorney fees, etc. Not only is it a legal requirement for the HOA to act as ordered, the BOD has no choice, no discretion to do otherwise, nor can the members reject a potential amendment or rule change. So much for democracy at work in HOA-Land!  Which of the above SC criteria does it violate?

It is well beyond the time for those public interest nonprofits touting their support for the Constitution and democratic values to get involved and stop this disgraceful and unconscionable legislation.  Stop the legislation that coerces, encourages, and supports private government, authoritarian HOAs.  Legislation that advances the view that the HOA “constitution” is a better deal than the 232-year-old US Constitution.  Shameful!

***

The American experiment in democracy, as the youthful America was described by Alexis de Tocqueville[5], is being subverted by the HOA legal scheme supported by elected officials and academics parading as the nouveau Philosopher-Kings preaching to the elected government leadership.  In 2009 I commented:

“I explore this failure of the American Experiment and the rise of independent HOA principalities in Establishing the New America of independent HOA principalities (see New America).”

Notes

[1] See “Legislative shall,” paper with quotes from Yale Law Journal and the Arizona bill drafting manual as a specific example.

[2] Read his 1976 statement in To be or not to be a mini or quasi government? Hyatt said ‘yes’. (2015). Wayne Hyatt was a prominent figure in the promotion of HOA-Land as well as an important person in creating CAI in 1973, serving as its second president. I believe he had strong influence in drafting the Del Webb Declarations still in use today.

[3] In general. see arguments for state actors: HOA Case History: state actors or mini/quasi government (2011); Do state HOA Statutes Establish HOAs as State Actors? (2012); Judicial error regarding HOAs as mini-governments and state actors (2015), “This commentary, somewhat technical at times, demonstrates the failure of the courts to address the fundamental issues that HOAs are mini-governments, and that by the collective functions and actions of HOAs there is clear and convincing evidence to make the case that they are indeed state actors. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

[4] Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Ass’n, 531 U.S. 288 (2001).

[5] Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (Vol. 1, 1832; Vol. 2 1840). Printed by Alfred A. Knopf (1972).

AZ SB 1088 is an unconstitutional and selective impairment of a contract bill

Arizona’s SB 1088 bill seeks to invalidate CC&Rs that require approval by a homeowner to allow any visitor access to the homeowner.  It specifically deals with — and is only meaningful with respect to gated communities which are gated for a very good reason — not hindering process servers access to a homeowner defendant.  It is punitive with a $250 “civil penalty” for anyone violating this law.

Background 

Under our laws and judicial system a plaintiff must service notice of a lawsuit upon a defendant as required by the Constitution.[1]  It is well known that there are people who act to avoid being served notice, which stops any lawsuit from moving forward. However, the law does allow for posting the summons notice to the public notices page of a newspaper in the event the defendant cannot be personally contacted.[2]

Impairing the obligation of contracts

The proponents’ argument would be generally along the lines that “due process under the law” triumphs over any contract infringement violation as a matter of public policy and for the general good of the people. An HOA covenant cannot hinder constitutional due process of law and the equal application of the law to a person, not necessarily an HOA, who is suing a defendant in such an HOA.  It’s not fair they would cry, referring to the greater good served outside the HOA.

But, the bill seems to be unnecessary as there are other means to satisfy civil procedure process servers.  It would also not pass judicial scrutiny[3] required to deny constitutional rights under contract infringement.  The bill seems to be sponsored as a request from a constituent facing some problem that lacks merit, considering the alternative methods available for service notice by process servers.

Selective enforcement of the law

It is long held doctrine that a government cannot pick and choose what laws to enforce or to ignore, and still be seen as a legitimate government.  The entirety of the covenants in a declaration of CC&Rs — allegedly constituting the voice of the people in a private contract to not be bound by the Constitution and the laws of the land — contains many, many covenants that violate the protected rights of the people.

Yet the state stands idly by and does nothing to end these private contractual violations of the constitution’s requirement for the equal protection of the law.  The CC&Rs are a mockery of due process protections, of fair elections, of eminent domain protections, of cruel and unusual punishment by foreclosure rights, of contract law misrepresentation and full disclosure violations, of the failure to provide civil penalties against HOA violations of the law, etc.

They are either ignored or have the “blessings” of the legislature as a result of laws that coerce compliance with the HOA, cooperate with the HOA, or closely interact with the day-to-day operations of the HOA. Any of which would make the HOA a state actor subject to the Constitution.

SB 1088 is a selective impairment of contract obligations while other infringements of the laws are allowed to stand. Adopting this bill would be a mockery of the law.

 

References

[1] 14th Amendment, “Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

[2] Ariz. R. Civ. P., 4.1(n). “Where the person being served . . . has avoided service of process . . . then service may be by publication  . . . . “ Also, Rule 4.1(m) allows for “alternative or substituted service.”

[3] Judicial scrutiny relating to constitutional rights requires a compelling and necessary government interest, not a general government interest, to deny protected rights.  See, in general, Arizona’s HB 2382 is an unconstitutional violation of eminent domain law.

Letter to Sen. Rubio on necessity of national HOA reforms

August 10, 2015

open email letter

Dear Senator Rubio,

In 2008 as FL Speaker of the House you created the Select Committee on Condominium and Homeowner Association Governance (FL legislative HOA committee gets subpoena power).  I attended the Tampa hearing and edited the public domain video of the hearing.  These clips can be found at http://YouTube.com/HOAGOV.

Your help, as candidate for the presidency and as the future President of the United States, is needed to return some 20% of Americans to the American Zone. HOAs are unconstitutional private governments strongly supported by special interests with the help of state legislatures, as you may well know.  Please understand that HOAs can function as local state entities that will provide due process and the equal protection of the laws to homeowners who were mislead about what HOA life is really all about.  It is a national issue!

For your easy reading, and that of your staff, the fundamental constitutional defects are presented in 3 documents that contain substantial legal authority and evidence.

Please read:

The future of America is the continued social and political decay of the principals and values that founded this great nation unless you continue HOA reforms on a national level.  America must be protected from constitutional rejection by means of alleged private contracts that cross the line from property interests to the creation of private governments, governments that are not subject to the 14th Amendment!

You can awaken the people to the silent special interest and state support and acquiescence of private authoritarian governments by calling attention to the un-American HOA legal structure during your campaign.

Respectfully,

George K. Staropoli
602-228-2891