Latest Reason Nation is Laughing at Arizona: Bill That Aims to Take Half of State From Feds

Categories: I'm Only a Bill
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The federal government owns 42 percent of Arizona, and State Senator Al Melvin wants to take that land and give it to the people of Arizona. Experts say Arizona doesn't have the power.

The Arizona Legislature is moving ahead with a bill that aims to take the state's federal lands and give them to the people of Arizona, despite exactly zero chance such a plan could work.

If the nation isn't laughing at Arizona, state lawmakers obviously wouldn't be happy.

Not content to be the butt of jokes because of their rabidly anti-illegal-immigrant, pro-gun mentality, conservative lawmakers decided to open the can of yee-haw even further this year.

The thinking by sponsoring senator Al Melvin, R-Tucson, goes something like this: The dang feds don't know how to manage the 42 percent of Arizona they own, so we'll just take it, thank you very much.

Utah's lawmakers recently passed a similar measure that now awaits the governor's signature.



Melvin's SB 1332, which passed the state Senate last week, is now wending its way through the House. Melvin didn't return a message we left him today.

Neither did House Speaker Andy Tobin, who apparently loves this bill so much he placed it into the House Judiciary and Rules committees yesterday. The bill's scheduled for its next public hearing before the Judiciary committee, in Hearing Room Four at 8 a.m. on March 15.

Joseph Feller, an Arizona State University law professor, told CBS News last week that the state has no power to grab federal lands -- and should know that, because it's tried unsuccessfully to do the same thing in the past.

The bill follows a tradition in the Arizona Legislature of trying to pass faux laws that emphasize states' rights. Back in 1995 the state legalized freon, which had been banned in the United States and around the world because it helps destroy the planet's ozone layer.

The legislation can't be called useless, though: Clearly, it's designed to pump up right-wing support. Conservative lawmakers must feel they'll get more contributions merely for supporting it.

Not that left-wingers are immune from this sort of political game. In 2010, Democratic lawmaker Ed Ableser forwarded a bill designed to lobby the U.S. government to apologize for behind-the-scenes work on the 1973 military coup in Argentina. The big difference between that and the federal lands bill, of course, is that Ableser's bill never made it out of committee, while SB 1332 may well be landing on the desk of Governor Jan Brewer in a few weeks.


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