Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has proposed creating a new state out of 13 counties in Southern California, including his own.
Stone told the Press-Enterprise that California’s state legislature had “gone wild,” and that the only reason the legislature was able to successfully complete an on-time budget was so they could “continue to get a paycheck.”
Stone’s frustrations come with what he sees as an out-of-control liberal state government, and that a majority of the southern part of the state has serious objections to how the state as a whole is being run. The current high taxes and the state legislature’s willingness to take funds from local municipalities have driven Stone and others to this secessionist idea.
Stone said that he envisions many advantages to separating from the rest of California, including a stronger economy, better schools, and lower taxes.
The North County Times reports that Stone’s fellow Riverside Supervisor Bob Buster has serious objections.
“Are we going to get more water from the north from this? Are we going to get our (UC Riverside) medical school sooner because we divorced ourselves from the UC system statewide?” Buster asked. He said he doubted that.
The North County Times reported much of Southern California’s water is piped in from Northern California through a complex system of canals, reservoirs, and levees that stretches for hundreds of miles. They also reported that a few days ago, the state passed a budget for fiscal year 2011-12 that left out money for UC Riverside’s planned School of Medicine, jeopardizing accreditation and pushing back the school’s opening from fall 2012 to 2013 at the earliest.
“I think a proposal like this weakens us,” Buster said.
A new Southern California state would also have to argue that it could exist without Los Angeles.
Los Angeles influences much of what takes place in southern California, including matters concerning transportation, air pollution, international trade, water supplies, and the high amount of freight that comes in through the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.
These areas influence much of the economy and overall sustainability of Southern California, something that virtually every county in the proposed secession would need to make up on their own.
Buster is not the only voice of dissention. John Benoit, Stone’s fellow supervisor who represents Palm Springs, called the initiative “unnecessary and wasteful.” As for the support that Stone has alongside him, Benoit said they were “really thin in their ranks.”
Finally, the case against a separate state might face its toughest challenge in the constitutional hurdles that it would have to cross.
Article IV, section 3, clause 1 of the Constitution provides:
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
Therefore, even if everyone in the 13 counties approved to secede, it would still require the approval of the California Legislature, something which would be very difficult to obtain.
No portion of an already existing state has broken off to become its own state since West Virginia broke off from Virginia during the Civil War-and then only because a second string legislature approved after the regular legislature joined the Confederacy.
Finally, if the proposal could make its way past state legislature approval, the U.S. Congress would then have to approve.
One would assume that Democrats would oppose the creation of a GOP-leaning 51st state. Unless Republicans were to gain the 60 Senate seats necessary to overcome a filibuster, such a proposal could not pass.
However, even with all of the above said, it would be unwise to completely discount Stone’s idea.
A proposal such as this has been brought to the forefront before with much seriousness. In the 1990s, former California legislator Stan Statham attempted to pass legislation that would split California into two or three states. Obviously, he failed, but he has gone on record saying that as California’s population approaches 40 million, the idea might gain more traction. The population is currently at approximately 37 million.
Additionally, if history serves as the greatest predictor of the future, which often it does, rebellion and secession have a prominent role in California’s past.
In 1846, just four years before California become an official U.S. state, Californians rebelled against Mexican rule to become their own independent Republic in what became the “Bear Flag Revolt.” The first leader of the new California Republic, William Ide, said the following about their new-found independence from Mexico:
“[We] overthrow a Government which has seized upon the property of the Missions for its individual aggrandizement; which has ruined and shamefully oppressed the laboring people of California.”
One must wonder if now, in 2011, similar calls will rise from Southern California’s for their official removal from a government that has, in their view, “shamefully oppressed the laboring people.” Time will tell.
Andrew Carico can be reached at email@example.com.