Posted Sept. 7, 2016, by the Phoenix Business Journal

It’s too early to call it one way or another, but the economic freedom concept is back at the Arizona legislature in a series of joint House-Senate committee hearings.

Prosperity districts are proposed as a regulatory reset for property owners within areas of one square mile or more to encourage greater economic development in the state.

“Arizona is doing really well in economic development,” said committee co-chair Sen. Steven Smith (R-Maricopa). “Imagine how our economy could grow if we could go back to the regulatory environment we had before today’s environment?”

The concept is being pushed by a trio of libertarian organizations, NeWay Foundation, Compact for America and Federalism in Action.

Attempts to reach representatives from the three organizations were not successful by publication time. Representatives of the groups and the Koch brothers-backed Center for Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University presented the concept to the committee at the Capitol Sept. 6.

“This is just the beginning, it’s a concept, and we want to hear from many different views on this,” said Smith. “It’s an attempt to press the reset button on the economy.”

The concept of the prosperity zone or district is that 100 percent of property owners must agree in order to form the district. Some of the process is still fuzzy, said Smith, but the end result is an area in which all state laws above the baseline of the constitution, common law and criminal law are eliminated.

Mike Huckins of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce testified that the concept as proposed is not considered business-friendly by the organization. Huckins’ testimony questioned whether the prosperity zones undermines Arizona’s regulatory consistency by creating areas in the state where the rules are different than other areas.

On first glance, the prosperity zone appears to be a new type of political subdivision created by the state, but Smith doesn’t see it that way.

“It is a big idea that’s hard to get your arms around to start,” he said. “But we’re just looking at the ideas. This isn’t the final way it could look.”

The trio of sponsors also see the prosperity zone in Arizona being part of a compact of prosperity zones in other states. According to a promotional piece from the group, if approved by Congress, the Prosperity Zone Compact would upgrade to the status of federal law.


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