SALT LAKE CITY -- Rep. Mike Noel is defending a law that strips federal officers of police powers in Utah, the latest flashpoint for lawmakers complaining about Utah's largest landlord -- the federal government.
Yet Gov. Gary Herbert is asking lawmakers to repeal the law. He put the request on an agenda for a special session Wednesday of the Legislature. The governor's office says it was Noel who asked for the repeal.
But the Kanab Republican told The Associated Press that he didn't agree to repeal his measure. Noel declined further comment until the Legislature takes up the debate Wednesday.
"I didn't agree to repeal it or do anything," Noel said Tuesday. "It's my bill and I'm not going to say anything about it."
The governor's deputy chief of staff, Ally Isom, said Monday that the request for repeal came from Noel. She continued to insist Tuesday that "the item was added to the call at Rep. Noel's request."
The government is waging a successful battle in federal court to overturn the state law, and a judge has issued an injunction to stop it from taking effect.
The law aims to prohibit federal officers from trying to enforce state or local laws anywhere in Utah. Officers violating the law could be arrested and prosecuted.
The Utah attorney general's office asserts in court documents that federal officers and rangers don't have the right to enforce state or local laws on national forest or federal range lands or in national parks.
The federal government says Utah doesn't have the right to arrest or prosecute Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management rangers who enforce laws on federal lands, which make up two-thirds of Utah.
The U.S. Department of Justice told The Associated Press in June that federal officers can issue speeding tickets and enforce Utah gun laws and hunting and fishing regulations on federal lands. Justice Department officials said federal officers enforcing state or local laws are acting under federal authority. They also said they can pursue a suspect onto state, local or private lands.
Historically, federal officers in Utah could act only under the authority and control of sheriffs -- they had to phone a sheriff before making an arrest, Noel said.
He continued to make an argument why his law hamstringing federal officers is justified.
In recent years, federal officers have been aggressively confronting people in the backcountry and issuing citations at the drop of a hat, he said.
"Don't get on a stinking highway and use your GPS to track them down and give them a ticket for speeding -- that happened to a lady in Kanab," he said.
Noel said that "I like the least amount of law enforcement," and "a lot of people in BLM do not like this oppressive law enforcement."