Monday, December 07, 2015

Why are Western attorneys general going rogue?

by Elizabeth Shogren

When Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced in September that the greater sage grouse would not be listed as endangered, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, a Republican, was one of four Western governors on the stage, applauding. 

States retained management of the bird in what Sandoval described as a “big win” resulting from intense negotiations. “It’s a lot easier to fight than it is to work together,” he said. Just a month later, though, Nevada’s attorney general, Republican Adam Laxalt, defied Sandoval, joining a lawsuit challenging federal plans to protect grouse habitat. A public row ensued, with the governor’s office declaring that Laxalt was acting on his own behalf, not the state’s. He fired back with a press release calling the governor “wrong.” 

Currently, two Western attorneys general are suing the federal government over high-profile environmental issues against their governors’ wishes. Colorado’s Republican attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, is suing to block President Barack Obama’s signature climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, despite Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s explicit objections. 

Both attorneys general were elected a year ago with the support of a lot of outside money, signaling big donors’ appreciation for the importance of these offices, as states push back against the federal government. “There is a perception that the (Obama) administration is running roughshod over states’ interests,” says Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden, especially in Western states, where large portions of the land and resources are owned and managed by the federal government. 

The Democrats view things differently: “There are several attorneys general who seem to see themselves as partisan warriors,” says Matt Lee-Ashley, director of public lands at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “They are so determined to boost their political profile and grab headlines that they’re willing to undercut their own state’s leadership.” 

In Nevada and Colorado, the governors are challenging the legitimacy of the lawsuits and the authority of their attorneys general...more

Have we reached the time where defending the state and questioning federal authority is "going rogue"? 

The article, though, is a good summary of the issue, and raises some interesting questions.  For instance, what if the issue was reversed?  That would be where the governor asks the AG to sue and the AG refuses.  Let's take New Mexico, with a Republican governor and Democrat AG.  If Gov. Martinez wants the state to sue the feds on one of these issues, can she force the AG to do so? Both are constitutional officers, but who calls the shots?

No comments: