Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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The incorrigible Michele Fiore’s would-be land grab

Every once in a while, we need to step back and celebrate the imagination that is the Nevada Legislature and the ability of some state lawmakers, with the help of militant rebels, to lean back, crack a few knuckles, breathe deeply and solve problems by looking outside the box. Way outside.

Take, for instance, the inspired notion that Nevada can, and should, seize federal land and then empower counties to tax as they see fit for the use of said land inside their boundaries, including for cattle grazing.

Brilliant! (But doesn’t the Bureau of Land Management already do that? Oh, stupid little details.)

Just imagine how county tax revenues could be applied toward, say, education, or more county-sponsored gun ranges. High-fives all around.

Assembly Bill 408 is sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Las Vegas and has the support of such outstanding, law-abiding citizens as Cliven Bundy, the self-appointed sheriff of Bunkerville, and his cadre of gun-totin’ constitutional law experts. Surely Mr. Bundy would be the first to step up and pay his fair share of grazing fees, because now the money would go to the county instead of those darned feds.

Yep, Fiore clearly is comfortable thinking beyond the conventional, which we applaud, because she certainly opens our eyes to some bafflingly intriguing ideas. (Recently, she suggested that cancer is a fungus that can be cleansed with baking soda — whoa, pardner, imagine the cost savings! — and encouraged “young, hot little girls” to carry guns to ward off sexual predators. Gee willikers, what could go wrong there?)

The bill to swipe — er, appropriate — federal land had its first hearing last week before the Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining. It lasted a full three hours — rather succinct, actually, considering the unprecedented and gutsy maneuver to quitclaim federal land.

But on a Debbie Downer note, the hearing began with the observation that the bill was unconstitutional. C’mon now, just how expert is the Legislature’s legal counsel? It took her 10 pages to collect her thoughts before concluding that the feds have extensive authority and ample bases to acquire and control public lands and can trump state laws. Really? Then she went on to claim that seizing federal land would be “manifestly hostile to federal interests” when it comes to matters of national policies and concerns. Sheesh, what a buzzkill.

If Nevada were to take control of federal land, it would cost the state nearly $100 million to watch over some 60 million acres of Uncle Sam’s foreclosed property, according to one estimate. Well, that’s a bummer, but we’re thinking Fiore surely thought of that — we’re confident she drills deep in her research — and maybe the $100 million is just a really rough guestimate.

There was no committee vote to move the bill along, just on the chance that someone else might find ways to defend the constitutionality of the land seizure. Maybe it will be deposited quietly in a cold, dark drawer in a bureaucrat’s cubicle.

We not only want to congratulate Fiore for her self-indulgence but offer shout-outs to other Assembly members who thought enough of this bill to cosponsor it. Their constituents must be so proud. Let’s hear it for Shelly Shelton, Victoria Dooling, Robin Titus, Victoria Seaman, Jill Dickman, John Ellison, David Gardner, Ira Hansen, Brent Jones, John Moore, Harvey Munford, Philip O’Neill, James Oscarson and Jim Wheeler — and, on the Senate side, Donald Gustavson. To all of you Republicans, congratulations for keeping your focus on the realities of government. Oh, wait …

What really saddens us is that the Nevada Legislature probably won’t discuss the bill further because the session already is half over. Maybe Fiore introduced the bill as a way to keep her cohorts fresh so they wouldn’t get consumed over other little matters involving education, health care and economic development. Wouldn’t want to be serious lawmakers now, would we?

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