Vote 2012: Debate – Prop 120 (State Sovereignty)

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Proposition 120 was placed on the ballot by the state legislature to give the state exclusive control over public lands, air, water, minerals and wildlife in Arizona. Those for the measure say it’s an important step in asserting states’ rights. Opponents say the state cannot afford to manage the lands, and also say it is unconstitutional. Supporters and opponents debate the merits of the proposition.

Ted Simons: "Arizona Horizon" vote 2012 coverage continues tonight with a debate on proposition 120, a constitutional amendment referred to the ballot by state lawmakers who want the state constitution to declare Arizona sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over public lands and natural resources within the state's boundaries. In support of proposition 120 is state representative Chester Crandell, who sponsored the measure, and representing the no on proposition 120 committee is Sandy Bahr, Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra club. Thank you for joining us.
Sandy Bahr: Thank you.
Chester Crandell: Appreciate the opportunity.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about what this calls for, why is this necessary?
Chester Crandell: The thing that it calls for is to put in the constitution to declare we are a sovereign state and we have sovereign rights to get equal footing with the rest of the nation east of the border of Colorado. Also gives us an opportunity to tap into some of the resources that we have. To help with our state because we have less amount of private property that we can tax. This would give us an opportunity to then derive some income from the resources that are there that we could use to help offset some of the expenses without having to raise taxes on our people in the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Why is this not a good idea?
Sandy Bahr: Well, it's a really bad idea, and it's also unconstitutional. First of all, we're talking about national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests. They are all part of our national heritage. I think it's something that we as Americans all value. Having the Arizona legislature have control over these national Treasures frankly just scares me thinking about what the legislature has done with the public lands we have such as our state parks, that it should make everyone concerned. The legislature has not funded them properly. They have swept the dollars that were intended for the parks and many of them have had to close at least seasonally. The other thing is we agreed, we agreed when we became a state that we weren't going to claim these lands and what this legislature is proposing is that we revoke the conditions under which we became a state. That's pretty serious.
Ted Simons: That last point first. Responds, please.
Chester Crandell: I think the issue is you need to go back and look at the history. I have a list of -- I find it very interesting in the question of states and it looks very interesting that when you get to the eastern border of Colorado that all the states that came in before and came in after those received their private property. You have North Dakota, you have Oklahoma is a very interesting one. Oklahoma came in in 1907 and has all its property rights and the ability to utilize the land there. Where you have Utah, Wyoming, you have Idaho, that came in before. So why are we on an unequal footing with the rest of the states east of the Colorado border? It has nothing to do with when we came in as a state but there must have been something that triggered we want to save this for something and I think it's the amount of resources and things that we have that we don't have access to.
Ted Simons:The other point regarding the constitutionality of this, almost everyone who has commented on this says it simply will not survive in the courts. First do you agree, secondly, is it worth that fight?
Chester Crandell: I think it's worth the fight. Other states have done it. History shoes in 1928 the first western state to come in after the 13 original colonies was Ohio, and there's evidence in history that they had to go through the same fight to get their private property. So why doesn't Arizona have that same ability to go back and have that same fight?
Ted Simons: Respond, please.
Sandy Bahr: Oh, sure. First of all, Arizona is special. We do have a lot of public land. That's one of the things that is great about this state. It's part of our economic engine. People don't come here to hang out in Phoenix sprawl. They come to see places like Grand Canyon. It's a really important part of our heritage here. Second of all, the state was conveyed land when we became a state. We have over -- about 9.3 million acres of state trust lands. Look what has been done with those. The legislature has defunded the land department as well. So they can't properly manage those state trust lands. So even Governor Brewer, even Governor Brewer, who has said that she supports state sovereignty on a similar bill, said, look, this would break our budget, and we have to respect the federal system. This is unconstitutional.
Ted Simons: How do we -- folks will look -- we can barely keep rest stops open. How are we supposed to manage the Grand Canyon?
Chester Crandell: I think the issue that we need to look at is there are a lot of resources out there. Back when the timber industry was going good in the state of Arizona, up until the early -- late '70s, where the endangered species act came in, we generated what's called stumpage fees for our educational system. We no longer get those. There are mining royalties that are being paid to the federal government on the BLM land. There's only BML land in the western states. Over $2 billion a year being generated in the western states. We have a huge mining industry in the state of Arizona. These are things that could be used to manage the resources and still give us economic value into the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: The idea of private advertising some of these lands, letting private companies manage them, extract resources from them, that would be how you would pay for managing the lands. Viable?
Sandy Bahr: No. It's not. First of all, a lot of these lands have value other than letting some foreign mining company come in and take over and return very little to the state. That's a very bad idea. If you look -- you're going to open up the land around Grand Canyon for uranium mining? Despite the fact that Arizonans and Americans have all said no, that's a bad idea, it has a higher value, the value of these lands goes well beyond what it is for us today. It's for future generations. Some short term profit that will mostly be pocketed by private corporations, that is not something that is going to help fund our lands. I will point to the state parks again. The privatization schemes they have put forward for state parks have not flown.
Ted Simons: Last question. How to get past the supremacy clause here?
Chester Crandell: The supremacy clause?
Ted Simons: Yeah
Chester Crandell: I think here again, this goes into the constitution, nothing happens until the state legislature then passes a law that says we are going to take over the management or do something. That's when it will come about.
Ted Simons: Mostly symbolic then?
Chester Crandell: Not symbolic because I think it's very important that we sends the message that we are a sovereign state.
Sandy Bahr: The legislature can't do that. Some of us still think it's important and that we're part of the United States.
Ted Simons: We need to stop it there. Good discussion. Good to have you both here. Thank you. Appreciate that.

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