‘Nevada lands bill unconstitutional’ says Legislative Counsel
April 2, 2015
The Legislative Counsel has issued a letter stating in her opinion, AB408, which would claim state ownership and control over all federal lands in Nevada, is unconstitutional.
"The authority of the United States to acquire and control the public lands located in this state is extensive and ample bases exist upon which a court could invalidate any state laws which are in direct conflict with existing federal laws concerning those public lands or which are hostile to or interfere with the exercise of federal authority over public lands," according to the 10 page analysis signed by Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes.
In a letter to Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, she says the bill broadens the definition of public lands to include federal parks, monuments, national forests and wildlife refuges "and all lands which are controlled by the United States Department of Defense, Department of Energy and Bureau of Reclamation."
The bill does, however, exempt lands that are held in trust for Indian tribes or are reservation lands.
"Even though Nevada may have a limited amount of concurrent jurisdiction over federal public lands under its taxing and police power, any state laws passed which conflict with existing federal laws are superceded under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution," the letter states.
Supporters of the legislation have argued the federal government never legally acquired those lands and never received state permission to do so and, therefore, doesn't own the land.
Recommended Stories For You
The letter states that argument has been rejected by the courts all the way to the Supreme Court.
The letter quotes a 1996 federal case involving Nye County's attempt to claim ownership of public lands in that area. That decision states Nevada's claim of ownership of the unappropriated public lands of the U.S. is "unsupported, unconstitutional and fails as a matter of law."
The letter concludes in the opinion of the LCB Legal Division, AB408, if passed, would be challenged in court and held to be unconstitutional.
More than 100 supporters of the legislation turned out for Tuesday's hearing on AB408.