May 25, 2004
State legislative leaders will ask Gov. Janet Napolitano to call a special session in late June to tackle proposed reform for managing state trust lands.
Leaders agreed late Monday to create a special legislative committee that will study a reform package being offered by a coalition of education groups, conservationists and developers.
The package includes a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by lawmakers by July in order to go before state voters Nov. 2.
The reform coalition had hoped the Legislature would take up the issue before ending the regular session this week. But the proposal was offered too late in the session.
"We have to give the Legislature an opportunity to understand a very complex package, 100 pages, dropped in here at the last moment," said Senate President Pro Tem Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale.
The reform proposal, which also would require an act of Congress, would change how the state manages and sells 9 million acres of land held in trust for Arizona school funding.
The coalition estimates future land sales could raise $20 billion.
"This is probably the biggest issue, the biggest money deal, in the history of Arizona," said House Speaker Jake Flake, R-Snowflake.
Backers say the reforms would make it easier to preserve open space and package land sales for private developers to generate more for money for the school trust fund.
Some environmental groups claim it’s too favorable to farmers and ranchers who lease state lands for their operations.