A newly rewritten and amended legislative bill, seeking to challenge federal control of public lands in Nevada has received predictable reviews in Carson City.
When first introduced by Michelle Fiore, R-Las Vegas, AB 408 was deemed unconstitutional by the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
Senator Pete Goicoechea, and Assemblymen John Ellison and James Oscarson agreed with many other members of the legislature that, “it was a great idea, but a badly written bill,” and none of them thought the bill would really go anywhere in this legislative session.
However, sponsors of the bill apparently worked very hard in committee and managed to craft a rewritten, more presentable bill by the April 10 deadline.
Fiore and others on the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining, made a number of amendments. An article in the Review-Journal said the bill now “declares that sheriffs and their deputies are the primary law enforcement officers in the unincorporated areas of their respective counties. It would allow county sheriff’s to enter into agreements with federal agencies to exercise law enforcement authority on land managed by the federal agency.”
Ellison said in committee it was a partisan vote, Republicans in favor, Democrats opposed. “But it was almost like a total different bill,” he said. Goicoechea said, “It is more focused on county law enforcement than a public land issue. It redefines the county law enforcement capabilities and decision-making process. It looks like it should be a decent bill.” egarding the first bill, he said, “When you start with one that is unconstitutional, you’re not going to go very far.”
When reached for comment, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said he was pleased with the ideas in the rewritten bill.
“We have entered into agreements in the past with federal agencies, and it should be that way to have state and/or federal laws enforced on public lands.”
He noted for five years, Lincoln County did have an agreement for law enforcement with the BLM in the county. “They even supplied an officer who did 75 percent of his work enforcing state and local laws on public lands. He drove a Sheriff’s vehicle and answered to the Sheriff’s office,” he said.
However, Lee noted, the BLM did not continue that policy about three years ago, “So we did away with the position.”
Lee said he feels the amended bill should be beneficial, “As long as we were not asked to cross-deputize or swear in federal officers into local enforcement powers. That we will not agree to. We need to be the ones enforcing state and local laws, not a federal agency, not just BLM, but any agency as well.
The amended bill 408 will now have a hearing before the full Assembly.
A related problem Lee mentioned, was a recent case of Federal Fish and Game officer issuing speeding tickets to motorists on U.S. Highway 93. He said he met a couple of times with the U.S. Attorney’s office, “and they promised me that will not happen again.” But Lee said he will keep a close eye out if such a thing should happen again.