CARSON CITY, Nev. (CN) - Constitutional questions that dogged a bill barring the feds from owning public land in the Silver State without legislative consent has led to a rewrite by lawmakers.
Assembly Bill 408 was originally written to "prohibit the federal government from owning or regulating certain public lands or the right to use public waters." Since the introduction of the bill, the Legislature's lawyers worked with bill sponsor Rep. Michele Fiore to completely rewrite the bill.
As amended, AB 408 would still allow the feds to own and manage public land, but states that "the sheriff and his or her deputies are primarily responsible for the exercise of law enforcement authority on the land managed by federal agency."
The costs of sheriff patrols and law enforcement activities would be borne by the federal government, according to the amendment.
The changes were given to members of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining 15 minutes after workshopping on the bill was scheduled to begin, upsetting several members of the committee including Rep. Maggie Carlton and Rep. Chris Edwards.
"I have no idea how the sheriff in my county will feel about this," Carlton said. "I cannot support this at this time. It may be a good idea but I can't figure that out right now."
The proposed law spawns from a battle between Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government last year over whether Bundy owed money for grazing his cattle on public land. When the Bureau of Land Management shut down Bundy's ranch, armed protestors advanced on government officers.
Fiore has been a strong supporter of Bundy's stance, stating on her website, "I am committed to opposing BLM's actions in this roundup and in roundups across the country. If they cannot be responsible and respectful, then they should be barred from any further interactions with the animals and public land."
The bill passed through the committee despite Carlton's strong no vote. Edwards voted yes with the caveat that he may change his vote once he understands the new language better.
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