On Wednesday, the Arizona House voted to concur with an amended Senate version of HCR2004 and send the proposed state constitutional amendment to the people for a vote.
The state of Arizona declares its sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries.
The resolution makes exception for existing military posts, Indian reservations, and federal property, pursuant to Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution.
On April 24, the Senate failed to pass the resolution. The vote ended in a 14-14 tie, with two senators not voting. But after Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) proposed a motion to reconsider, the Senate passed the proposed amendment 16-14 six days later.
Interestingly, Yarbrough was a no vote both times around.
The House concurred 38-20.
Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) added an amendment to the resolution that would further strengthen Arizona’s authority over its lands, altering the state constitution retroactive to 1912. On a condition for admittance to statehood, Arizona agreed to disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated and ungranted public lands lying within the boundaries thereof and to all lands lying within said boundaries owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes.
Allen’s amendment strikes the bolded words and reworks the language for clarity, effectively asserting a state claim over those lands still in federal hands.
The senator told the Yuma Sun the change was necessary because the federal government made an implicit promise that the federal claim to those lands when Arizona became a state in 1912 was temporary.
“Then the federal government would dispose of those lands to pay for the national debt,” she said.
But in Arizona and some other western states, it never happened. The feds reneged on their promise to sell them off, Allen told the newspaper.
“The federal government’s the one that betrayed us. We are not equal to other states because we do not have control of the lands. We never were made a true state.”
According to the Arizona land department, the federal government holds about 42 percent of the state’s 72.9 million acres, some 114,300 square miles.
Allen told the Yuma Sun the feds could avoid a fight simply by selling of the land as they promised 100 years ago. She points out that putting the land in private ownership would also prove a boon to the state, increasing tax rolls.
By reasserting claim over its own lands, the Arizona legislature would also have control over how they are used. That would open up more areas for mining and timber harvesting, as well as fire control projects currently stymied by federal regulation because Washington D.C. controls the land.
“Sovereignty is the key here, and the people of Arizona have a great chance to reassert rightful control over their own affairs.” Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said. “You can’t get more basic than control over your own land. As it is, bureaucrats more than 1,000 miles away in Washington D.C. are telling the people of Arizona how to best manage own land. How ridiculous is that? Arizonans have a chance to tell Uncle Sam to butt out, and they should take it!”
The proposed amendment will be on the ballot in the November general election.