In November 2012 voters in Arizona will address Proposition 119, entitled Relating to State Trust Lands. It arises from the Senate (SCR 1001) as a proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 119 would allow the state to exchange state trust land for other public land in AZ if the exchange would assist in preserving and protecting military facilities in AZ from encroaching development, or if it would improve the management of state lands for the sale, lease or conversion of state land to public use. Before that would happen, two independent appraisals must be conducted showing that the value of the land the state receives in the exchange is at least as valuable as the land it is giving up. Two independent analyses must be conducted showing the financial, physical, economic and natural resource impacts of the exchange on each county, city, town and school district that would be affected by the exchange. Public hearings must be held and the exchange would have to be approved by the voters in a statewide election.
While federal law gives Arizona flexibility in managing and disposing of trust land by allowing the state to exchange trust land for other public or private lands, Arizona never amended the state Constitution to incorporate that authority. The Arizona Supreme Court has determined that without amending the Arizona Constitution, the state cannot conduct land exchanges.
Advocates of Proposition 119 say that:
- This would authorize land exchanges between the State Land Department and the Federal Government. The land exchanges can be for two purposes: improving the management of the state lands for the purpose of sale or lease or conversion to public use or for the protecting military facilities. Any exchange will have to be referred to the ballot by the legislature and approved by the voters in order to be consummated. All exchanges must have two appraisals, an analysis, and be vetted at two public meetings. Full and up-front disclosure of the parcels involved is also required, so there will be no surprises regarding which lands are involved. Voters have been skeptical of past land exchange measures that gave broad open-ended exchange authority to the State Land Department. This measure reigns in that authority and says there must be public involvement and review as well as public support via a vote prior to any exchange. This will help address checkerboard land ownership that hinders protection of wildlife habitat and will help protect state trust lands that are adjacent to some military facilities.
- Preserving our system of military bases in Arizona means keeping thousands of jobs and an economic contribution in excess of $9 billion per year. Prop 119 allows the Arizona State Land Department to help in preserving military bases and facilities by providing land for those uses, while, at the same time, earning money for public schools and other institutions. It honors private property rights, including water rights, through independent appraisals and public hearings. It requires all parties involved to engage in thorough and transparent public processes and hearings before any land exchange is undertaken.
Opponents of Proposition 119 say that:
No arguments against Proposition 119 were submitted to the AZ Secretary of State.
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Note: pro and con arguments for the proposition were quoted or paraphrased from the official arguments. More arguments may have been submitted; I am presenting only a few that I believe will most help readers decide how to vote. You can find the entire wording of the ballot proposition, and all the pro and con arguments, in the official election pamphlet.