By Mark Waite
TONOPAH — State Senator-elect Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he will submit a bill draft demanding the U.S. Bureau of Land Management transfer lands to the State of Nevada, patterned after a Utah bill, in the 2013 legislative session that begins in February.
Goicoechea, a rancher and former Eureka County commissioner wasn’t the only one to brandish his sagebrush rebellion credentials. Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, who will represent a portion of northwestern Nye County after the 2010 redistricting, including much of Tonopah, wants Nevada to be given public school lands.
The first bill draft mentioned by District 36 Assemblyman-elect James Oscarson, R-Pahrump, would eliminate the requirement for counties to publish tax rolls, a bill that was defeated in the 2011 session.
About 85 percent of the state of Nevada is public lands under U.S. Bureau of Land Management supervision. Goicoechea said initially a 17-member committee, consisting of representatives from each county commission, would be appointed to decide what lands should revert to the state and if sold, how the revenues would be distributed. The 2015 Legislature could then provide additional language, he said.
“It doesn’t say shall, it says when those lands will be returned to the State of Nevada, either by a congressional act or by an enabling act,” Goicoechea told commissioners Tuesday.
Utah spelled out a deadline of Dec. 1, 2014 to begin transferring lands to the state, the suggestion was the Nevada bill would have a deadline of July 1, 2015, he said.
Goicoechea said the Utah attorney general feels he can defend the bill as constitutional.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen was in full support.
“The BLM was supposed to manage those lands until they could get handed over to the state,” he said.
Commissioner Joni Eastley was concerned the federal government could designate a large chunk of wilderness areas before handing lands over to the state. Goicoechea talked about a wilderness provision inserted into a Lyon County lands bill he called “extortion.”
“If it wasn’t in fact recognized as wilderness, I’d say go ahead and accept the land. Once we have management of it, we can reverse it,” Goicoechea said.
Another bill that could arouse considerable controversy, would require licensing and insurance for large all-terrain vehicles being operated on secondary roads. Goicoechea said a motorist who collided with them would be automatically at fault.
Oscarson said freshmen assemblymen participated in a conference call so they didn’t overlap each other on bills. Legislators are limited on the bills they can request in a session.
Oscarson said the 2013 Legislature will be addressing constructing defect litigation issues and prevailing wages.
“We’re taking a good hard look at the amount of money it’s costing the counties,” he said.
Eastley said prevailing wages for Las Vegas have to be paid for projects in small towns like Beatty.
“There are projects in smaller communities that don’t get built. They have the money to build the project but they don’t have the money to pay prevailing wage,” Eastley said.
Goicoechea asked, “Why do we have to pay a 30 percent premium because we’re a public entity?”
Schinhofen suggested a bill allowing exemptions for public employees in counties of under 100,000 population from collective bargaining rights and offered to wholeheartedly testify for such a bill.
Commissioner Butch Borasky asked about an agenda item already approved, asking for a bill requesting oil royalties. Eastley said county officials weren’t aware they are receiving royalties and won’t need the bill.
Oscarson said he’s saving a bill for Nye County, but didn’t elaborate.
Outgong county commissioner Gary Hollis talked to him about a bill concerning Yucca Mountain, he said, which Eastley said would be dead on arrival.
Another bill that may face tough sledding, judging from commissioners’ comments, is abolishing a requirement to publish the county tax roll.
“Why are we still using the newspapers to do all these things?” Hansen asked. “Newspapers are frankly a dying industry.”
Amargosa Valley Town Board member-elect John Bosta asked for a bill remitting to the town’s part of the payment in lieu of taxes PILT the county receives from the federal government for public land.
“The county does not pass that money down to the town. That would bring an additional $160,000 plus to the town because only 8 percent of the land in Amargosa Valley is taxable for an ad valorem tax. We need that payment in lieu of taxes for our town,” Bosta said.
Hansen introduced himself to Nye County voters, saying he represented the largest assembly district in the state, including parts of Washoe, Humboldt, Pershing, Mineral, Esmeralda, Lander and Nye counties.
“I was a big supporter of Dick Carter. I personally raised over 1,000 shovels for Jarbidge for the reopening of the stream up there,” Hansen said.
Carver, a former Nye County commissioner, who tirelessly fought for public lands issues, made the cover of Time magazine in 1994 when he used a bulldozer to reopen a road in Jefferson Canyon north of Tonopah. After that, volunteers helped clear a road closed by an avalanche near Jarbidge on the Idaho border, which wasn’t reopened due to concerns over the endangered bull trout.
“You’ll find out I’m very much of a state’s rights, constitutional kind of guy,” Hansen said.
He wrote columns for the Elko Daily Free Press and Sparks Daily Tribune.
Hansen warned an assemblyman introduced a bill that would take away the ability of counties to regulate activities on public land if the BLM issues a permit.
“If that thing passes, you will basically be neutered. If anything happens on BLM land you won’t have the ability to regulate it,” he said.
Hansen drew kudos from Schinhofen over remarks warning about the possible listing of the sage grouse.
“I think that is the death knell for rural Nevada, the northern part of the state,” he said. “Potentially you are going to see the mining people shut down and the livestock people shut down.”