Elkhart lawmaker targeting U.N. Agenda 21 in state legislative proposal
Posted: 01/06/2013 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
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“Most would agree that the United Nations is reflective of many radical, extreme policies,” he said.
And he certainly doesn’t want anything to do with U.N. Agenda 21, a controversial resolution meant to encourage sustainable global development that world leaders inked at a 1992 U.N. conference. “I believe it is a potential threat, that it is important that state legislators stand up and express strong opposition,” he said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the Republican lawmaker from Elkhart has authored a legislative proposal that would forbid Indiana governmental entities from adopting policies related to Agenda 21 that infringe on personal property rights. It’s part of an outcry by conservatives and tea party activists from around the country.
They worry Agenda 21-inspired initiatives will somehow lead to increased regulation of everyday life and chip away at individual freedoms.
“It is a completely onerous attempt by the big government socialists to control everything. Everything,” said Pete Recchio. He’s an Agenda 21 foe who helps lead a local tea party group, the Tea Party of Michiana Action Coalition, or TEA-MAC.
Never mind that Agenda 21 is nonbinding, meant mainly as a general framework to deal with poverty and increased pressure on natural resources, with a particular focus on developing countries.
Never mind that Neese can’t point to any specific examples of Agenda 21-inspired initiatives at the local level, 20-plus years after its creation.
Agenda 21, Recchio maintains, potentially imposes “onerous government” in all facets of life — the economy, gun control, environment, education, even food and water issues. Indeed, he sees the handiwork of Agenda 21 in a 2011 Elkhart County proposal, which ultimately failed, to revamp the zoning ordinances here.
Neese, who had been approached by Recchio and others in TEA-MAC on the matter, says it’s too early to say where his proposal will go. Indiana’s 2013 legislative session doesn’t formally begin until Monday.
Gov.-elect Mike Pence has apparently given the notion his blessing.
Recchio said Pence, a Republican, indicated to TEA-MAC reps that he’d back such legislation. “He enthusiastically said that he would support a bill to outlaw Agenda 21 in the state,” Recchio said.
A Pence spokesman didn’t respond to phone and email queries Friday.
Not everybody sees Agenda 21 as a threat.
“It’s a conjured-up fear, based on Internet fallacies,” said Mike Yoder, an Elkhart County commissioner who initially helped push the zoning ordinance that Recchio criticizes.
Yoder had never heard of Agenda 21 until Recchio and others charged that the U.N. plan was behind the 2011 zoning proposal. The zoning initiative came under fire as too controlling, as limiting landowners’ rights to use their land as they see fit, among other things.
He’s since researched Agenda 21 and doesn’t see why the naysayers are so worried. In fact, he sees U.S. environmental and planning policies influencing Agenda 21, not the other way around. Moreover, some Agenda 21 calls — to reduce debt and conserve natural resources — jibe with conservative principles.
“I think that Rep. Neese needs to do some additional research into Agenda 21,” said Yoder, a Republican. The state lawmaker’s bill, the county official thinks, will likely go nowhere.
Rebecca Einhorn, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Better World Campaign, a non-profit group that promotes U.S.-U.N. ties, noted that Agenda 21 was signed by President George H.W. Bush. It later garnered the support of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“It may be helpful to bear in mind that Agenda 21 is not legally binding and, as such, does not take supremacy over U.S. law,” Einhorn said in an email. “Agenda 21 encourages, rather than compels, United Nations member states to consider the environmental impacts of their land, resources and transportation development policies.”
RIGHTS ‘IN PERIL’
Nevertheless, Neese — who doesn’t necessarily think the local zoning ordinance that was so criticized by Recchio had its basis in Agenda 21 — sees local government authority as threatened. He sees the creeping hand of Big Brother and speaks in grave terms.
“Part of their effort is having control over business, more regulation,” said Neese. “So it is very broad and diverse and it is in direct opposition to the free market enterprise that has made Indiana and the United States strong.”
Recchio speaks in similar terms.
“Without the passage of this bill, the citizens of Indiana are in peril of losing their rights that have been granted to them by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Indiana,” Recchio said. “Pretty serious stuff.”
Neese’s proposal wouldn’t just prohibit Agenda 21-inspired policies that hamper private property rights without due process. It would also forbid adoption of international laws that run afoul of the U.S. and Indiana constitutions and outlaw use by Indiana governmental entities of money from any “Agenda 21 organization.”
Lawmakers in Alabama passed such a measure earlier this year, the first state to do so. Others have followed suit, and still more are mulling such action. If others are concerned, Neese reasons, that suggests that Agenda 21 is a potential threat to be reckoned with, even if he can’t pinpoint examples of change wrought by the U.N. initiative.
“The threat of Agenda 21 is beginning to develop and this legislation, in my view, stops it at the door front of Indiana,” Neese said.