Gordon Vetoes Bill On State Land Leases

in News/Legislature

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill dictating that the state give preference in awarding leases on state lands to people who own or lease adjoining lands has been vetoed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon, in a letter to Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said Senate File 114 creates new requirements for leasing stand land would limit the state’s ability to determine which bids for state land would most benefit the state’s schools.

“As written and set before me, this legislation now requires the (State Board of Land Commissioners) to award leases based less on return to the schools and almost solely on how proximate a bidder is to the state land in question,” he wrote. “These changes potentially upset a carefully crafted and historic balance between the two competing interests that is recognized elsewhere in (state law).”

The SBLC is constitutionally required to award leases or sell state lands so “as to realize the largest possible proceeds” for the state’s schools. SF 114 was drafted to resolve a conflict in how state law that describes how SBLC should give preference to competing bids in awarding leases to state lands should be interpreted.

Gordon said he asked the Legislature to address the issue and the result was SF 114, which he said resolved the conflict.

However, Gordon said amendments added to the bill during the Legislature’s general session would limit how the SBLC decides which bids for leases would most benefit the state’s schools.

“In effect, this bill instructs the SBLC to ignore all other criteria except adjacency, which the SBLC would normally consider when determining an optimal solution that would best insure to the greatest benefit of the state’s trust beneficiaries,” he wrote. “Preemptively restricting competitive bidding from the process to lease state trust lands, thereby depressing the potential revenue derived from that activity, seems to stand in contrast with the constitutional obligation (of the SBLC).”

Gordon asked legislators to look at the issue again during the interim.

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