A conservative Republican lawmaker has brought the rancor over Agenda 21 -- the United Nations' push to preserve the environment -- to the Nebraska Legislature, saying the plan is a threat to the state.
Agenda 21 was drafted -- with input from the George H.W. Bush administration -- during the U.N.'s climate change summit in Brazil in 1992. But it has caused alarm and become a rallying point for tea party Republicans and other conservatives concerned about what they say is the threat of one-world government.
Agenda 21's opponents say it threatens national and state sovereignty and private land rights -- even though it's been supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations and does not have the force of law in the United States.
"We want to protect property rights," said Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion. "If there is going to be central planning going on in our state about how land is going to be used … it should be done by the Legislature and nobody else.
Conservative TV and radio personalty Glenn Beck even wrote a futuristic novel about Agenda 21.
"Just a generation ago, this place was called America," Beck's website says in touting the book. "Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as 'the Republic.' There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom. There are only the Authorities."
Kintner has introduced a bill (LB482) that would prohibit state and local governments from receiving funding from such groups as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, which promotes Agenda 21. The council lists 84 countries and more than 1,000 communities as members, including Lincoln and Omaha.
Among other things, Agenda 21 encourages the development of bike trails, green energy, mass transit, land-use regulations and sustainable farming through local, national and global action.
"It's a broad plan to scale back development, to severely limit where development can be done, to create green space in cities. Green space isn't necessarily bad -- but not the way they plan it," Kintner said. "And it also would take farmland out of use and make it into wilderness. That's catastrophic for the state."
The bill has caught the eye of Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a member of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, which will discuss the measure Wednesday.
"It would be in the category of those people who wear tin-foil hats for protection from I don't know what," Chambers said. "This is a total waste of time that may provide an opportunity, a learning experience for some people who support these things. I will discharge my duty as a citizen, a lawmaker and a sane man."
He said Kintner's bill was a cookie-cutter measure -- an idea hatched elsewhere that spreads to legislatures across the nation. Indeed, at least 22 anti-Agenda 21 bills have been introduced this year in 14 states, according to the website LegiScan.
"This entire type of activity is based on what I call monkey-see, monkey-do legislation," Chambers said. "Some nutty person in a legislature in some other backward state will offer something like this … and people begin to see demons where there are only shadows. They perceive tigers where there is only a crackling leaf in the street."
Said Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln: "It's like the Sharia law craze of 2013. Every now and again outside fringe groups and personalities like Glenn Beck seek to foment hysteria and misinformation by creating a paranoid response to a non-issue," she said. "Those concerned about these issues demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of our system of government and a clear disregard for well-established constitutional protections for private property rights."
Last year, Republican state senators in Georgia attended a four-hour, closed-door session on Agenda 21, where they were told President Barack Obama and the United Nations were using "mind-control" practices to force through a land-use agenda. Republican legislators in Kansas called portions of Agenda 21 "indoctrination," "radical" and "destructive to the American way of life."
Kintner's bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins, Tom Hansen of North Platte and Charlie Janssen of Fremont.