Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Arizona governor vetoes bill to take over federal land, calls it unconstitutional and costly

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation Monday that would have allowed the try to state to take public land from the federal government, a fight that several Western states talked about but that only Utah, so far, has decided to wage. Robert Gehrke of The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Brewer, well-known as a feisty conservative, informed legislators that the bill appeared to be "not reconcilable" with the U.S. Constitution and Arizona’s Enabling Act and that it would create uncertainty for holders of leases on federal lands.

Gehrke writes that the governor also pointed out, "If Congress were to transfer control of the land to the state, Arizona would be on the hook for up to $23 million in costs to manage the land, and that it is premature to put fixed dates for action into statute until the state has met its other funding needs. "As a staunch advocate for state sovereignty, we still must be mindful and respectful of our federal system," Brewer wrote. "I understand and share Arizona’s frustration in trying to manage our natural resources with our various partners; however, this legislation is not the answer."

In short, Gehrke notes, "Brewer relied on the same arguments that opponents of similar legislation in Utah raised when the bill demanding Congress turn over nearly 30 million acres of federal land passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert." (Read more.)

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