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State moves forward on federal public lands bid

SALT LAKE CITY — The Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands moved the needle forward on the state's commitment to wrest control of certain federal property within its borders, voting to approve a bid for outside legal analysis on the effort.

In the Monday vote, commission members agreed to allow the request for proposals to be issued by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel for legal services and relations for a two-year period.

Under the terms of the proposal, the selected law firm will research legal theories the state could use to obtain ownership and control of public lands, identify potential witnesses in support of that premise, have demonstrated experience or know of a firm that has brought an original action before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state has the option to cancel the contract with certain notice, and commission leadership agreed that quarterly reports will be given updating the progress of the selected law firm preparing the draft legal brief.

A vendor is slated to be selected by June after a review of the bids.

In other public lands action Monday, a measure sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, directs the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands to order a study that would conduct an inventory of certain federal lands and quantify the amount of funding that could be generated for public education from the property.

That revenue would be based on if the property transferred to the management of the state and be forecast out for the next 10 years for each school district in the state.

"When you look at the potential revenue for public education, we keep talking about this in anecdotes," Osmond said. "We throw out these large numbers of billions of dollars, but we have never actually assessed what the value of this land would be if we were managing it for the benefit of public education."

SB48 has a $500,000 price tag, which brought objection from Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who said the money would be thrown down a "rat hole," and it would be best if the state pressed the pause button.

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