SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, hopes to have a rough draft and map of his public lands initiative in Congress before the end of March.
Counties have the option of not being part of the bill, but "the fact everyone is still at the table is a good sign," Bishop told Utah lawmakers.
"My goal is to have finality so once these decision are made, they are made," he said, offering guarantees for those who use public lands for recreation, grazing and economic development, as well as conservation areas and giving the state a greater role in management.
Bishop and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spoke and answered questions in the Utah Legislature on Thursday.
Hatch said Utah's congressional delegation is standing together to protect Hill Air Force Base, which has new maintenance contracts for F-35 fighter jets and may end up taking care of foreign-owned planes. He stressed the need to expand the Utah Test and Training Range to accommodate the high-tech aircraft.
"We can't ever let those who want to kill Hill raise their ugly voices again," he told reporters later.
Bishop said recent presidential designations of national monuments using the federal Antiquities Act is "flat-out wrong, intellectual hypocrisy." He said the designations made starting with President Jimmy Carter were "used as a political tool to make a statement."
Bishop also said many people do not understand federalism means "people get to make choices for themselves." Instead, the congressman said, they turn to government for solutions to their problems, whether in Washington or in the states.
"The more money you get from us, the more problems you get from us," Bishop, a former Utah House speaker, advised the representatives. "If you work with us to try to cut the ties, we'll work with you" to get the ties cut.
In the Senate, Bishop sidestepped a question about what state lawmakers should do about Medicaid expansion. Even though the Affordable Care Act was "crappy" legislation and Congress was wrong to pass it, the decision rests with the Legislature, he said.
"You're going to have to decide which shade of gray is lighter or darker," Bishop said.
Hatch said he's working with members of Congress on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act and give power to states to run health care programs.
The seven-term senator also told the House he is trying to find federal dollars to make a "long-term commitment" to making improvements to the state's roads.
"This is a well-run state. You are way ahead of other states with regard to your roads and bridges," Hatch said, adding he was proud of what lawmakers are doing to fund transportation. The senator did not offer details of his funding proposal.
As the president pro tempore of the Senate, Hatch said he may preside when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress next month.
He said President Barack Obama is "very upset" that Congress invited the foreign leader to speak, but "the Congress is a separate branch of government, and we ought to have the right to do that."