Archive for category Utah Legislature
A key square-mile parcel of Comb Ridge near Bluff is being sold by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), ignoring the majority of Utahns who commented on the proposed sale. I attended a public hearing about this land sale in Bluff on June 7. SITLA Director David Ure opened the meeting by explaining that the state-owned lands he manages are not in fact public lands although many people have that impression. The SITLA holdings, he said, are actually PRIVATE land. The impression was created that this was a done deal no matter what anybody says.
The buyer is the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation, which already owns the Bluff Fort tourist attraction. The Foundation says they do not have plans to build permanent structures at Comb Ridge, however after acquiring the land plans may change at any time. At the very least, they will devote the land to a single use — ignoring the broad public interest and the cultural importance of this land to Native Americans.
Here’s the big picture: Gov. Herbert and the Tea-GOP majority in the Utah legislature are planning to sue the federal government to grab 30 million acres of our public lands and national forests. If the state ever gets this land, it will instantly become PRIVATE land as David Ure can tell you. That is what is at stake here.
Support the Bears Ears National Monument!
Writing in the Salt Lake City Weekly, Eric Ethington reveals that frustrated Utah politicians are trying to deal with widespread public opposition to their land grab plans by hiring two right-wing consulting firms, Strata Policy and Davillier Law Group. Strata is best known for its opposition to renewable energy.
The job of these firms is apparently to get more support for state government’s illegal scheme to steal 30 million acres of our public lands. On June 16, Utah lawmakers committed up to $2 million in taxpayer dollars for the two firms to launch PR campaigns aimed at convincing a majority of Utahns that it’s somehow a good idea to ditch the whole concept of public lands. It’s all part of the Koch brothers agenda, but why should the Kochs pay for their own propaganda when they can get their hands on OUR money?
The consequences of a state takeover of public lands and national forests in Utah have been spelled out already. In general, such a land grab would require either a steep Utah tax hike or a massive increase in fossil fuel extraction to cover the cost of land management (hundreds of millions of dollars annually).
One way to answer this Tea-GOP attack on public lands: President Obama could be persuaded to declare one or more national monuments in Utah before he leaves office. Potential national monument proclamations could include Greater Canyonlands, the San Rafael Swell, Cedar Mesa or Desolation Canyon along the Green River. The new monuments would be incorporated into BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System and managed to protect natural and cultural values. The Obama administration has already demonstrated a willingness to move ahead with monument proclamations.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune is lobbying for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument proclamation.
Via Think Progress
The Campaign for Accountability (CfA) is requesting that the attorneys general of Utah, Arizona and Montana investigate Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory (R) for “solicit[ing] funds from local officials, falsely claiming the federal government can be forced to transfer public lands to the states.”
The complaints cite Ivory’s use of his role as president and founder of the American Lands Council (ALC), a Utah-based organization, to “enrich” his personal wealth and make “false or fraudulent representations to obtain money.”
Utah remains the only Western state to have enacted a law to steal our public lands, which would be utterly unconstitutional. Utah’s HB 148, signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012, violates the U.S. Constitution, the Utah Constitution, and the Utah Enabling Act.
Anne Weismann, executive director of the CfA:
“Ken Ivory has relied on his position and authority as a Utah state legislator to persuade unsuspecting local officials that if they contribute taxpayer dollars to his charity, they can help their states acquire federal land and increase revenues… He might as well be trying to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Ken Ivory and his wife pocket most of the money contributed to the ALC.
According to the AP, representatives for the Utah and Montana attorneys general offices are reviewing the fraud accusations.
SLT: Environmentalists claim Ken Ivory is scamming local officials
Rep. Ivory says he’s being bullied by the Campaign for Accountability.
“These types of organizations have just destroyed Western public lands through this kind of litigation and bullying tactics,” he said. “They’re so afraid of the success that the transfer of public lands movement is having that they’re stooping to these kinds of bullying tactics because they can’t tolerate basic political debate.”
The right-wing Utah legislature began a legal battle to steal our public lands when Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 148, the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study” in March 2012. Supposedly, if the federal government does not turn over title to 31.2 million acres of land by the end of this month the State of Utah will spend millions of dollars of our tax money on a ridiculous lawsuit. HB 148 is utterly unconstitutional according to the Property Clause (U.S. Const. art. IV, sec. 3, cl. 2.), the Utah Constitution (Article III), and illegal under Section 3 of the Utah Enabling Act.
We found out yesterday that a theoretical takeover of public lands by the State of Utah would place a heavy burden on the state budget.
A study released Monday by researchers at three Utah universities found that transferring national forests and other public lands to the state of Utah would cost taxpayers at least $280 million per year — a price tag that could only be paid if the state were able to increase drilling and mining, seize energy royalty payments that are owed to U.S. taxpayers, and, if energy prices remain low, raise taxes to pay for the shortfall.
Here’s the right-wing “plan”: Fire 5,000 or so federal employees, abolish all of our national forests and national parks, and turn over Utah public lands to the corporations– particularly the oil and gas industry and the tar sands industry. These are the same legislators who slashed the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation budget by nearly 80 percent. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, they’re called “public lands” because We The People own them.
Think Progress has investigated the use of millions of dollars of our tax money to promote the unconstitutional seizure of public lands. The money goes to litigation funds, so-called “studies,” to ALEC and to the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states claim ownership of federal lands, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The President of the ALC is Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory. In 2012, Ivory sponsored HB 148, the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act, which asserted that the federal government must turn over all public lands in Utah to the state government by the end of this year. Ivory receives a $40,000 a year salary from ALC, and his wife is on the payroll too.
The majority of Utahns disapprove of this naked land grab but “our” legislators are onboard with ALEC and ALC and the Koch brothers, not the citizens.
Arch Canyon, Manti-La Sal National Forest
But he’s not joking. (And stop calling him “Shirley.”)
On April Fool’s Day, Governor Gary Herbert signed into law H.B. 160, the so-called “Utah Wilderness Act.” Unlike the REAL Utah Wilderness Act (98 Stat. 1657, signed into law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan), this bill did not designate a single acre of wilderness land. Why did the Utah legislature pass a fake wilderness law?
Two years ago, Gov. Herbert signed H.B. 148, the Transfer of Public Lands Act. It was a blatant violation of both the Utah and United States Constitutions. The Act purports to require, among other things, that the federal government must transfer title of all public lands in Utah to the state before January 1, 2015. This includes lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.
Article III, Section 2 of the Utah Constitution says in no uncertain terms that the people of Utah “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof.” Likewise, Section 3 of Utah’s Enabling Act, the legislation which led to Utah’s birth as a state, contains this same disclaimer.
Our legislature has chronically underfunded state parks. There is no plan and no budget for the state to manage the 30 million acres now administered by federal land agencies in Utah. The so-called “Utah Wilderness Act” is an attempt to cover up the state government’s lack of seriousness by establishing a mechanism for state-level “wilderness” designation. But it’s a farce.
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
H.B. 160’s sponsor, Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton), included this key language (originally drafted by Howard Zahniser, one of the founders of The Wilderness Society). But Utah Republicans struck it out of the bill, as too “highfalutin.”
“The Utah Shooting Sports Council is offering a free class Friday to qualified educators who want to carry concealed firearms in schools.
“The class is open not only to teachers but also all other staff that work in schools,” said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the council. “Because of the popularity last year, we wanted to offer it again.” SLTrib article
March 2013: I wrote a detailed character sketch when his loaded assault rifle gun was first taken from his car (not far from my house).
May 2013: Clark was arrested and jailed for driving a 2-ton army truck to his ex-wife’s house in Cottonwood Heights and making threats to one of the people who lived there. A few days later, the Judge confiscated his guns.
If you’ve been following the news lately, you will know that Count My Vote is attempting to be a citizens initiative to change Utah’s caucus system to a primary system. At a minimum, it’s gotten Utahns talking about how we select our candidates for public office which is good. I’m not convinced Count My Vote’s solution solves the problem they claim to want to solve. Will switching from the current caucus system improve voter engagement and turnout? That depends on whether it addresses the reasons people don’t vote.
A man drives his truck up the capital steps in Utah – which were designed to not allow vehicles to drive up there – according to the Deseret News:
When the Capitol was renovated several years ago, the steps were built at a steeper angle as a security measure, designed to make a vehicle either bottom-out or be unable to make the climb.
“It was just the perfect-sized truck with the right amount of clearance to do what it did,” he said.
The same Deseret News aticle from page 1 claims:
Green has several DUI convictions and minor traffic violations, but no other criminal history in Utah.
The man’s prior criminal history in Utah is minor: a few traffic violations and a charge of unlawful purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor when he was 18, according to a search of court records.
Some reports said the man wasn’t able to be tazed, but this report from The Associated Press said:
Troopers confronted him on the building’s third floor, where they stunned Green with a Taser, punched him in the face and arrested him.
I don’t know if this was a ploy to legalize marijuana or pump-up the drug war; a scheme to increase “Homeland Security” and the Bluffdale mega-spy-center or maybe it was only a youthful indiscretion.
Now here’s my point…
The fact remains that this dude could have just walked up those stairs and right into the building with a gun and shot anybody he wanted to, but he didn’t have a gun.
Update May 28, 2013: Utah gun rights advocate Clark Aposhian arrested
March 29, 2013
Clark muttered under his breath when he discovered his ‘baby’ had been stolen out of the the back seat of his car as it sat parked in front of his house. He walked back toward his open garage.
For the first time in his life, Clark knew the meaning of pants-around-ankles. He shuttered to think about his next move. ‘Do I call the police,’ Clark thought to himself, ‘how will I face my gun safety students…or do I keep quiet and hope no one notices?’
“Shoot, shoot, SHOOT” he said, out loud this time.
Ever since the accident at the gun range, saying ‘shoot’ three times in a row always got Clark’s adrenaline going. This time was no different. Clark’s instincts kicked in. With the deftness of an eagle in flight, Clark swept the Glock out of his waistband cocking it with his arms outstretched above his head. Widening his stance, Clark slowly lowered the gun to eye level and squinted as if transfixed on an imaginary enemy. Clark was a huge Clint Eastwood fan. He had perfected the “Clint squint” by first grade.
Seeing no immediate threat on the bucolic street at the end of his driveway, Clark spun around, crouched, and with both hands, aimed his gun toward the garage door.
“Don’t fuck with me,” Clark warned out loud as he crept back through the empty garage into his empty house, hoping none of the neighbors had noticed.
A tingle ran up his spine. His mind raced back to his childhood and the endless days playing Cops and Robbers with his best friend Lil’ Clyde.
“Damned, those were the days” Clark said to himself as he straightened out and placed the Glock back in his pants. Stepping into the serenity of his empty kitchen, his mind went blank as it often did, without notice.
Unable to remember what he had come into the house for, Clark went over to his old vinyl record player and put on his favorite ZZ Top album and began doing air guitar. As he arched his back, he felt the barrel of the Glock press into his flesh.
“Shoot” Clark said out loud, remembering the was a bullet in the chamber. Then Clark remembered why he had come back into the house.
By now everyone has heard about this story. It highlights a couple of things.
1. Even the most responsible gun owners cannot protect us from the unintended consequences of gun ownership.
2. Refer to #1.
Personally, I’d like to know why Clark had a thermal-imaging scope attached to his rifle. As a lobbyist for the gun industry, I imagine Clark Aposhian has plenty of exotic freebies kicking around his house. But why was it actually ON THE GUN? What the fuck? Is there a new shooting sport we should know about?
Don’t miss the Wonkette’s satirical reflection on Clark’s big ooops: “Utah Gun Lobbyist’s AR-15 Stolen Because SUV Couldn’t Defend Itself“
Several observations after spending the afternoon in the Utah House Judiciary Committee hearings on 2 gun bills. Rep. Brian King and Rep. Patrice Arent are such a credit to their constituents and the Utah Democratic party. Both so smart and asked such relevant questions. Nineveh Dinha of Channel 13 is drop dead gorgeous. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jean Welch Hill, who spoke eloquently on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of SLC on the need for reasonable gun control. I sure wish she was our Attorney General right now! The room was packed., complete with the guy with an assault rifle on his back, and the guy who was out of order so security came in and took him aside. I saw some of my favorite people and legislators, and it really is amazing to watch democracy in action.
Utah can be a very embarrassing place sometimes.
Smoke and flames are seen over homes as the Dump Fire burns near Saratoga Springs on Friday, June 22, 2012. JIM MCAULEY/Daily Herald
Last June 21, target shooters ignited a wildfire near Saratoga Springs that burned 5,507 acres and cost $2.1 million to fight, and resulted in the evacuation of 9,000 residents from their homes. More than 20 Utah wildfires are started by irresponsible target shooters every year.
Why is target shooting causing wildfires? Don’t firearms enthusiasts go to firing ranges where safety precautions are the first priority? Well… regular firing ranges don’t let you shoot an AR-15 at an exploding star target (video), a Tannerite target, or use tracer or incendiary rounds.
Although Utah is one of the most heavily-armed states in the nation, our state government cannot regulate target shooting. Not even in an emergency, such as last year.
Utah code 76-10-500, passed in 1999, states: “Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation, or rule pertaining to firearms.” A 2004 law contains similar phrasing.
It seemed like a simple fix for Utah State Senator Margaret Dayton (R-Orem), and State Rep. Curt Oda (R-Clearfield) to introduce SB120, a bill to allow the state forester to restrict target shooting when it would create a high risk of wildfires. It sailed through committee, and Dayton said she has the votes to pass it. But then the gun nuts went ballistic. As the Senate started to debate the measure Friday, Dayton pulled it and told senators that she may not bring it up again.
Once again, it appears that a common-sense measure with majority support cannot withstand the fury of the gun fanatics. Most likely, our state will remain powerless to stop preventable wildfire emergencies caused by yahoos with assault rifles.
The two men charged with starting Saratoga Springs’ Dump Fire in June have pleaded no contest to reduced charges.
Idaho resident Kenneth Nielsen, 37, and Jeffrey Conant, 42, of Washington state, were originally charged in 4th District Court with reckless burning, a class A misdemeanor, and using prohibited targets, a class B misdemeanor.
… the pleas were part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop the reckless burning charges, and won’t request jail time at sentencing.
The two men each agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution.
Charging documents state that Nielsen and Conant were target shooting near Saratoga Springs at 11:30 a.m. on June 21, when an explosive target ignited dry weeds and spread to burn the mountainside, court documents state.
Fire investigators discovered packaging linked to an explosive target the men used during their shooting session. A fingerprint on the packaging was traced to Nielsen, court documents state.