One house of a certain state Legislature, dominated by Republicans, has passed a bill ordering the federal government to hand over most federal public land in the state, even though their own lawyers advised them the bill was unconstitutional.
The bill is a follow up to a measure approved by the voters years ago to start process for grabbing federal land, but on which state officials have failed to follow up.
No, not Nevada, that’ll never happen, Alaska.
The bill passed by the House of the Alaska Legislature sounds very much like Michele Fiore’s Assembly Bill 408, which also demands the feds hand over land to the state. It will probably killed this week because it lacks the support of even some of its sponsors, who upon a thorough reading say its sections requiring continued beneficial use of land and water rights might jeopardize rather than protect existing rights.
The Alaska bill was by House Speaker Mike Chenault, a Republican. Chenault says the federal government has yet to transfer about 5 million acres of the land promised Alaska under the Alaska Statehood Act in 1958.
“I believe there is a breach of contract as well as a breach of good faith,” Chenault said. His bill lays claim to about 166 million acres.
According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the bill is similar to state law passed 1982 by a voter initiative called the Tundra Rebellion, similar to the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, which resulted in Nevada voters’ in 1996 passing an initiative to take over federal land. State officials, Congress and courts have all ignored both of these votes of the citizens.
In 1983, the Alaska attorney general opined that “no good faith argument could be made to support” the claim that the state owned almost all the federal land within its borders.
The Legislative Counsel Bureau said of AB408 that “it appears well-settled that the United States has been judicially declared to be the owner of the unappropriated public lands in this State and, as such, has the authority to manage and control those public lands. Furthermore, it also appears well-settled that Nevada’s current statutory claim of ownership over those public lands … is unconstitutional and fails as a matter of law.”
Yes, that is what case law says. But case law has and can be reversed when better arguments prevail.
Utah lawmakers passed a bill that demanded all federal land be handed over to the state by the end of 2014. It has been ignored
The citizens of the West get that lot.