With the fallout over Arizona neo-Nazi militia icon JT Ready's alleged mass murder-suicide still unfolding with chilling details of weapon stockpiles, few observers noted Gov. Jan Brewer quietly signed a controversial bill last year to establish the state's own "armed force," granting her the power to use the militia "for any other reason the governor considers to be necessary."
Those "other" reasons, for state's rights advocates, may come sooner than later.
With another brave new state's right bill awaiting her signature on her desk, which calls for state control over vast federal lands, Brewer could potentially take Arizona's unyielding confrontation with the federal government to a new level -- far beyond a wagging finger on an airport tarmac.
In effect, the law establishing the Arizona State Guard last year essentially circumvented the National Guard of Arizona and allows Brewer to employ her own troops "for the safety and protection of the lives and property of the citizens."
The key word is property: In a rehash of the abandoned 1970's "Sagebrush Rebellion" claim over federal lands, the proposed SB 1332 on her desk demands the relinquishment of federal titles "to all public lands" -- an area ranging over an estimated 48,000 square miles.
For added gusto, the state legislature also passed HCR 2004, the infamous state sovereignty bill, which will place a proposition to amend the state's constitution before the voters in the November elections. The bill reads in part:
The state of Arizona declares it sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, land, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries.
In truth, Arizona's state's rights bravado today is a rerun of the Sagebrush Rebellion's similar manufacturing of a constitutional crisis, when conservative legislators from several western states sought to take "sovereign control" over the public domain lands administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management under the guise of constitutional rights and federal mismanagement.
The key point in Arizona's new bill underscores the state's intent to sell public land to private enterprise and elude federal environmental protections guaranteed by the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other regulations. More than 30 years ago, the Sagebrush Rebellion's adherence to such sacred sovereignty also dissipated to a thinly veiled front for private land owners. In a region where mining interests and real estate companies encircled the counties for cheap deals, and huge ranching operations sought to expand unfettered grazing on public lands, the state's rights parade was a bandwagon to support. One of the dissenting Arizona Democrats in those days referred to the bill as the "Stagecoach Rebellion, because we're all being taken for a ride."
Coming on the centennial of Arizona's statehood, the governor and state legislators appear to have overlooked that the state's 1912 constitution legally relinquished "forever... all right and title to the unappropriated and ungranted public lands lying within the boundaries thereof."
Thereof notwithstanding, at least Gov. Brewer could have a guard or militia to back up her claims today.