On occasion, my home state Utah manages to find its way into the news, but often only for the goofy or laughable reasons. (There is the exception of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which went off without too much of a hitch.)
The legislative session provides a great place for some of the laughable. As one of the more conservative states in the country, message bills provide plenty of fodder for the more liberal talking heads in the country, as well as for more moderate. The most recent foray into this world of message bills that flirt with, if not cross, the line from legal to laughable is the bill signed by Gov. Herbert authorizes the use of eminent domain to try to force a showdown over public lands.
Like many states in the west, a large portion of Utah land is owned by the federal government. Utah has one of the lowest levels of funding for education per student, in large part due to large families and because most of the funding comes from school trust lands. Utah has decided to invoke the Takings Clause to force the federal government to sell the land and give Utah 5% of the proceeds. Trying to invoke the Takings Clause of the Constitution against the federal government is, as Above the Law put it, like a dog tell its owner to get off the couch:
A state is invoking the Takings Clause against the federal government? This reminds me of the time I came home and my dog told me to get off the couch. Sure, I was surprised that my dog was (a) talking and (b) ordering me off my own property. And so I resolved, right then and there, to never drop acid again.
Some of the back story on this is that much of the land held by the fed in this case was tied up by President Clinton by executive order, a move that went over oh so well with Utah conservatives gripping their guns and religion.
I’ll just direct you there for the rest of the laugh. Other stories on the bill can be found here:
- In War Between States and Feds, Utah Strikes the Latest Blow (WSJ)
- Utah lawmakers propose using eminent domain to take federal land (Salt Lake Tribune)
- New Utah Law OKs State Seizure of Federal Lands; Aim is Supreme Court Showdown (ABA Journal)