Arizona Declaration of State Sovereignty Amendment, Proposition 120 (2012)

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Proposition 120
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Arizona Constitution
Referred by:Arizona State Legislature
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
See also: Arizona Rejection of Unconstitutional Federal Actions Amendment, Proposition 122 (2014)

The Arizona Declaration of State Sovereignty Amendment, also known as Proposition 120, was on the November 6, 2012 general election ballot in the state of Arizona as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have declared state sovereignty over the state's natural resources based on the argument of "equal footing." Natural resources would have included land, air, water, minerals and wildlife.[1]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

The following are official election results:

Arizona Proposition 120
Defeatedd No1,308,29967.7%
Yes 623,461 32.3%

Results via the Arizona Secretary of State.

Text of the measure


The summary of the measure read as follows:[2]

A Concurrent Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Arizona; Amending the Constitution of Arizona by adding Article II.I; Amending Article XX, Paragraphs 4 and 12, Constitution of Arizona; Relating to state sovereignty.[3]


  • Supporters of the measure claimed that the federal government claimed jurisdiction over everything it desired in the state. Supporters said they claimed jurisdiction over the animals, the water, and the lands. According to proponents, the measure provided the state's citizens the opportunity to assert their opinion of whether or not state residents or the federal government bureaucrats cared more about the state's properties.[4]
  • State Senator Steve Smith stated, "Prop. 120 is a 10th Amendment, state’s rights issue and it declares our public lands and natural resources are under our sovereign control."[5]

The following are arguments that were submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State. You can read more arguments here.

  • "I support Proposition 120. When the western territories became states, the federal government violated the enabling acts that incorporated them and retained land within each of the western states in violation of federal law. Federal retention of that land hurts the economy of the western states and leaves them struggling to adequately fund public education, nurture their economies, and manage their forests and natural resources. Simply put, federal control and interference in state affairs inhibits Arizona's ability to provide for the welfare, health and safety of our people. The EPA threatens to close coal-generating power plants with excessive regulations. Closing these plants will result in higher utility costs for everyone. We can't build a bridge or perform needed flood control activities because of interference from numerous federal agencies. We experience catastrophic forest fires, loss of wildlife habitat, threats to community watersheds, and loss of jobs, all of which affect the economy everywhere in the state. When the federal government mismanages our forestlands, the state cannot intervene. Roads are being closed and citizens denied access across federal lands. It takes years to obtain mining permits from the federal government, and some areas are closed to mining all together. As a result, Arizona loses billions of dollars that could be used to fund education and address other budget concerns. Meanwhile, our abundant natural resources remain under the control of unelected federal bureaucrats. Arizona is a sovereign state, and we have a right to control the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife, and other natural resources within our boundaries. Passing Prop 120 would be a small but important step in asserting our state rights and a rejection of the archaic colonial control by the federal government. I SUPPORT PROP 120."
Submitted by Sylvia Allen, State Senator, Arizona State Senate.
  • "Arizona Farm Bureau supports Proposition 120. Farmers and ranchers understand both stewardship and productivity of the land and our natural resources. In the last ten years, we have had devastating forest fires, followed by damaging floods. The machinery of federal bureaucracy slows and in some cases stops recovery and re-use. Our members, along with many others have become frustrated and inflamed over the federal mis-management of our public lands. Proposition 120 draws a line and throws an anchor out to exhibit we are at wits end. It begins with our forests and federal stewardship and runs to how the government functions as a landlord. Certainly, Proposition 120 requires further action by Congress, but so does any other measure necessary for course correction. We hope this message ignites and sustains a dialogue to lead to meaningful reform in federal policies and programs."
Submitted by Kevin G. Rogers, President, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation; James W. Klinker, Chief Administrative Officer, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation.
  • "Freedom requires being sovereign. Our federal Constitution established two systems for separation of powers to preserve our liberty. Unfortunately only the separation of the three branches of government is reported. Equally important is the separation of powers between federal government and sovereign states. States gave limited authority for the federal government under our Constitution. All powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people. Prop 120 is an Arizona constitutional amendment to re-establish this necessary constitutional separation/balance of power to protect our liberty and civil rights. It declares our public lands and natural resources, are under our sovereign control, as provided in the NW Ordinance of 1787 and SW Ordinance of 1790 for the admission of states, excluding Indian lands and lands under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Over the last century, the separation between federal and state powers has been eviscerated. Without Senate accountability to our legislatures we are the recipients of unfunded federal mandates and restrictions which take our civil constitutionally guaranteed rights under the guise of giving us a faux benefit we can't pay for. This abuse is demonstrated by; the denial of century old water rights for Tombstone; denial for Arizona to manage Arizona forest lands resulting in devastating fires; denial of Arizonans to commercially and environmentally regulate our own natural resources; and denial to protect our citizens at the border . In 2009 we caught 29,000 illegals from terrorist designated countries ! What better stewards are there of our land and safety, than the citizens that live with their decisions? When the Feds screw up - they have no consequences - but we do! The feds propose "anti-bully" rules for our schools but what we need is an anti-federal bully rule. We the people Vote for Prop 120!"
Submitted by William Sandry, resident of Mesa, Arizona.


  • Opponents of the measure had stated that the goal of the measure was to assert state control of public lands of national importance. Opponents claimed that federal laws providing for critical environmental protections would have been undermined if the measure was enacted. Those laws could have included the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. Opponents also claimed that the measure was unconstitutional because those lands belonged to all citizens of the country.[4]


The following are arguments that were submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State for the state voter guide. You can read more arguments here:

  • "The Arizona Wilderness Coalition is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of Arizona's wildlands and free-flowing rivers. Proposition 120 destroys Arizona's iconic public lands heritage. The Legislature not only wants to grab "exclusive authority" over all parks, forests and public lands - including Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Parks, Superstition Wilderness Area, and millions of acres that Arizonans cherish and enjoy - it has indicated that once it has them, it will sell them off to private interests. Our public lands are Arizona's heritage. They provide us with clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and unsurpassed recreation opportunities. The Legislature wants to sell our freedom to hike, camp, hunt, fish, view wildlife and enjoy unsurpassed scenery to whomever they wish, for whatever reason. Proposition 120 is a budget disaster. Until the state manages to auction off your lands - and in a century they've managed to sell less than 10% of lands it already owns -- Arizonans will pay to manage them. All Americans now pay that bill. Proposition 120 puts the entire bill on the tab of Arizona taxpayers. You are being asked to pay more for what you already have. The recent State of the Rockies Project's nonpartisan poll found that Arizonans across the political spectrum - from supporters of the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street and voters in-between - view parks and public lands "as essential to our state's economy (90%)." Our public lands embody our freedom and are essential to the quality of life we enjoy. Please - let's come together in telling the legislature that our parks, forests, and public lands are not for sale. Vote NO on Proposition 120."
Submitted by Michael Quinlan, Vice President, Arizona Wilderness Coalition; Kelly Burke, Treasurer, Arizona Wilderness Coalition.
  • "The Grand Canyon Trust urges you to vote NO on Proposition 120, an unconstitutional measure that would give Arizona sovereignty over federal public lands in Arizona, including Grand Canyon National Park. Its intent is to gain state control over national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges in Arizona, get rid of the federal land managing agencies, and undermine protections provided by federal laws that guide public land management. Asserting state sovereignty over federal lands makes no sense. Foremost, it could be a massive waste of Arizona taxpayer dollars given that the American people and the federal government are not simply going to allow lands they currently own be taken away by Arizona. In addition, the state already has difficulty funding its own state park system and managing state trust lands, let alone trying to pay for management and care of all of the federal lands within its borders. And finally, the ownership of lands within the state by the federal government was part of the legislation allowing Arizona to become a state. Reneging on that promise could cause a cascade of unknown legal issues, having the potential to affect virtually every local government in the state. This proposition is fatally flawed. We ask you to please vote NO on Proposition 120!"
Submitted by Nikolai Lash, Program Director, Grand Canyon Trust; Rick Moore, Senior Director of Programs, Grand Canyon Trust.
  • "Proposition 120 would amend the Arizona Constitution to declare Arizona's sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the Arizona's boundaries. The objective of Proposition 120 is to attain exclusive control of federal public land, i.e. national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges in Arizona and undermine protections provided by federal laws, such as the Antiquities Act, Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. Arizona is not adequately funding and caring for its own state lands. Many state parks have closed and there are plans to privatize others. The land department is miserably under-funded, so how can our state possibly manage federal public lands? Our national parks, forests, and monuments, including the Sonoran Desert National Monument, belong to all Americans. The Legislature's attempt to grab these public lands violates both the Arizona Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Proposition 120 also violates the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, the law that granted Arizona Statehood in 1912. Stand up for our public land. Vote No on Proposition 120!"
Submitted by Laine Seaton, President, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument; Thomas Hulen, Executive Director, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Campaign contributions


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $0
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $6,127.15

No campaign contributions were made in favor of the measure, according to state election websites.[6]


The following are contributions made in opposition of the measure:[7]

Donor Amount
No on Prop 120 - Stop Legislature's Land Grab $6,127.15

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Arizona ballot measures, 2012


  • The Arizona Republic stated, "This ridiculous measure declares state sovereignty over all federal land in Arizona. A state that can't afford to manage its own parks system is going to take on running the Grand Canyon and other iconic national parks, forests, wilderness areas, monuments and preserves. Really?"[8]

Path to the ballot

A majority vote is required in the Arizona State Legislature to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot. Arizona is one of ten states that allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state's legislature.

On May 3, 2012, the Arizona House of Representatives approved the measure with a 38 to 20 vote, sending the measure to the ballot. The Arizona State Senate had previously voted to approve the measure.[9]

See also

Suggest a link

External links