Prop 120, if passed, could set state up for federal challenge

October 31, 2012

A proposition on the Arizona ballot in this election challenges the federal government’s control over state lands. The proposition calls for the state to manage all of its own public resources. It would amend a provision in place since Arizona became a state. This is an overview of Proposition 120.

NADINE ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: The proposition is also known as the State Sovereignty Act, and it intends to amend the Arizona Constitution. It proposes that the estimated 25 million acres of state natural resources -- including air, water, wildlife, minerals and public lands -- be taken from federal government control, and grant exclusive rights to the state. Indian reservations, U.S. lands and federal property like military bases are excluded from the ballot measure. By controlling the natural resources within its boundaries, Arizona would have the right to manage, change, or sell its public lands. E.J. Perkins is with the Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

E.J. PERKINS: Advocates say the state is better positioned to manage those lands, because it’s local. And they’re better positioned to exploit the lands for positive economic growth.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: But opponents disagree. They say managing the local natural resources could cost the state millions of dollars, resources Arizona doesn’t have. They also say taking the management of public lands out of the hands of the federal government would violate the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which establishes that state statutes cannot supersede federal law. Perkins says if the proposition passes, it is likely the federal government would challenge it.

PERKINS: There is precedent for this, it’s a case called, a landmark ruling back in 1958, Cooper vs. Aaron and the Supreme Court at that time explicitly rejected the idea that states can nullify federal law would no doubt be brought-up in a federal court.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: A majority vote of the Arizona legislature put this proposition in the ballot.

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