Brewer vetoes Arizona's federal land takeover bill - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Brewer vetoes Arizona's federal land takeover bill

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Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 10:06 am | Updated: 4:24 pm, Tue Jul 10, 2012.

Already in court over Arizona's immigration laws, Gov. Jan Brewer refused Monday to pick two new fights with the federal government.

The governor vetoed legislation to demand title to most federal lands in the state. While describing herself as a "staunch advocate'' for state sovereignty, "we still must be mindful and respectful of our federal system.''

Brewer also rejected another measure which making it a crime for any state employee -- including police officers -- to enforce or attempt to enforce two sections of a controversial new federal law which allow the government to detain people suspected of involvement in terrorism without trial, including U.S. citizens.

"While I unequivocally support the due process rights of all United States citizens, I cannot support legislation that forces law enforcement -- under threat of criminal penalty -- to choose between upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States and abiding by the laws of Arizona,'' Brewer wrote.

The governor vetoed four other measures on Monday, including one on how the state budget is prepared and another to have the state prepare a list of acceptable online classes for high school students.

But she did sign legislation eliminating a requirement that homeowners file an affidavit every two years avowing they actually live in a house to qualify for a special property tax break. And the governor penned her approval to legislation allowing any student in a school with a D or F performance rating by the state to get a voucher of public funds that could be used to pay tuition at a private or parochial school.

The public lands bill is similar to what has been enacted in Utah.

Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, said the 48,000 square miles of Arizona under control of the federal government -- about 42 percent of the state -- includes tracts where there are valuable natural resources that Arizona is unable to use for economic development without federal permission. He said states back East don't have the same restrictions.

His legislation demanded all federal land be deeded to the state except about 5,800 square miles of military bases and more than 4,000 square miles of national parks. The state could either keep the land or sell off what it gets, pocketing 5 percent of the money and giving the other 95 percent to the federal government.

"I understand and share Arizona's frustration in trying to manage our natural resources with our various partners,'' Brewer wrote in her veto message. "However, this legislation is not the answer.''

Conflicts with the federal constitution aside, Brewer said if the federal government were to somehow agree to the demand, the state is unprepared to take over that much federal property. She said that, as owners of the land, the state would have the cost of complying with federal environmental laws.

The voters, however, will get the last word.

Lawmakers put a measure on the November ballot to enact a constitutional provision declaring Arizona's "sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction'' of all that exists within its boundaries. The only exception would be Indian reservation and military reservations and federal buildings.

The other vetoed measure deals with the National Defense Authorization Act signed late last year by President Obama, giving him the authority "to use all necessary and appropriate force'' to detain, without trial, certain people involved with or aiding terrorism, including U.S. citizens. Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said state employees should not be helping to do away with due process.

Allen scoffed at Brewer's worry that state police officers would be risking a misdemeanor conviction in helping to enforce the federal law.

"If you're concerned about law enforcement, why aren't you concerned about the citizens and their rights not being protected?'' she asked. "That is the point of the whole bill is protection for the citizens and their due constitutional rights are to be honored and observed in the state of Arizona.''

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