Once again an all-powerful committee chairman has thwarted the will of Nevada’s lawmakers by single-handedly tabling a resolution.
This week the chairman of the Legislative Committee on Public Lands, Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, essentially locked in his desk a resolution that would ask Congress to release some the 87 percent of the state land controlled by the federal government.
The resolution was put forward by a task force set up Assembly Bill 227 in the 2013 Legislature. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, but in the Assembly Aizely was one of the 18 Democrats who voted against it. All Republicans supported it.
Aizley told the Elko newspaper that he receives more emails from constituents asking him not to support a public land transfer than any other issue and he believed the general population didn’t have an opportunity to participate in the discussion.
Aizley told the Las Vegas newspaper he was concerned that the transfer of federal employees to state service and the costs of fire suppression would cost the state $57 million a year.
“We don’t have $57 million to do that,” he said. “Those are two that are fairly persuasive to me.”
State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, countered that the initial transfer would be only a small portion of the land and that the state could actually make money from the transfer. Also, he said that with proper management fire costs could be zero.
Goicoechea plans to make the the resolution one of his bill draft requests.
Aizley appears to have fallen for the same logic trap as the Western Center for Priorities, which put out a study claiming states can’t afford the firefighting cost. Neither notes that those costs are due largely to mismanagement of fuels control.
The federal government would not have to spend so much on fire suppression if it properly managed the land in the first place, allowing grazing, logging, cutting fire breaks and letting small fires burn and reduce the fuel that causes the huge blazes. States and private land owners would be more likely to protect the forests and prairies and the wildlife there.
It is time to change the rules at the Legislature so that a single panel chairman can’t basically veto a bill that the majority of both houses approved.