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Utah Sends Bills to Governor Asking State Control Over Federal Land
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In their battle to gain control of federal land within the state, Utah lawmakers approved two separate measures on Wednesday in the Senate. The bill HB 148 received final approval of the House after suitable amendment. Another bill, the HJR3, is already at the desk of Gov. Gary Herbert.

The HJR3 is made against the historical context of Utah’s claims to 67 percent of the property within the borders of the beehive state. The resolution asks the federal government to hand over control of the land to state authorities by Dec. 31, 2014.

On the other hand, HB 148 requires the state to begin a study on the potential transfer and set the table for legal action that may be required against the federal government.

  
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Sen. John Valentine told the media that the enabling act under which Utah had become a part of the United States of America represents a contract between the state and the federal government. Referring to the congressional acts in 1976 of opting out of those enabling acts do not make the contract void ab initio and the legality of the pact holds to date. Valentine said, “The government has the right to handle federal lands. It does not have the power to breach a contract.”

Senator Barrus, who had sponsored the bill HJR3 holds that the potential transfer of public land is a key element to educational funding. The Senator pressed that the historic promise made to states in 1780 allows states to fund education through the transfer of federal lands to the state. At a time when teacher layoffs and worsening of educational infrastructure has become inevitable due to budget cuts and lack of availability of federal funds, keeping to the promises made in 1780 and handing over federal lands to states can help the situation and open up this key area of educational funding.

Chief Deputy Attorney General John Swallow told the media that the state is ready to seriously contest the issue despite warnings that any legal action sought against the federal government could be unconstitutional.

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