FOR John and Josephine Bronczyk, the cattail marsh that seeps
over part of their Minnesota farm is a measure of the times. During
the dustbowl days of the Great Depression, the bog was so dry they
could cut hay on it.
Nowadays, the brother and sister let pheasants and water fowl
nest in their fields and rushes. But, true to the modern age, the
marsh has also drawn a less welcome praire home companion: the
state Department of Natural Resources.
State officials have designated more than half of the Bronczyk's
160-acre farm as wetlands, subject to a complex tapestry of
regulations. A decade of legal battles has taught the siblings how
intractable government rules can be. The wetlands designation, they
argue, restricted their right to forbid public access. Cases such
as the Broncyzks' have fueled a growing movement to seize greater
protection of property rights. At least 500 grass-roots
organizations across the country are now pushing for changes in the
reach of government regulations, and Republicans in Congress have
picked up on their anger.
On the floor of the House Thursday, federal lawmakers will begin
to debate new rules regarding the protection of property rights
under the Fifth Amendment, which states that if private property is
taken for public use, government must provide "just compensation"
to the owner. The Broncyzks argue Minnesota's wetlands designation
constituted a "taking," for which they are entitled to
Earlier this week, the House debated legislation that would
require federal agencies to conduct extensive cost-benefit analyses
of all proposed regulations before enacting them. The House has
already passed a moratorium prohibiting agencies from imposing new
regulations through this year and suspending all rules issued since
November of 1994. The ban faces a veto threat.
ALL together, the House regulatory reforms, called for in the
Contract With America, are a vital part of the GOP effort to
deconstruct the New Deal model of government. But critics argue the
reforms are hasty, ill-conceived, and will add more bureaucratic
"There are two paths to regulatory reform: rewrite the
regulations, or add complexity and drag to the process," says
Maureen Steinbruner, president of the Center for National Policy,
a think tank here. She says the Republicans are taking the latter
The Bronczyk case illustrates the debate over regulatory
burdens. Starting in 1979, the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources conducted a statewide inventory of state public waters. …