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Slicing and dicing a three-way split

A road sign in California's Death Valley. (Photo: Melissamn, via Shutterstock)

It has been said, over and over again, that “The Devil is in the Details.” If Californians approve splitting themselves up into three new states this November, and the remaining political obstacles can somehow be overcome, the details will indeed become devilish.

Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper’s three-states initiative collected signatures from more than the required 365,880 registered California voters to qualify for the November 6 general election. In 2013, Draper launched an effort to carve the state into six parts, but that attempt never made the ballot.

An April poll found that lass than one-fifth of those surveyed liked the idea, while more than two-thirds opposed it.

The three new states would be “Northern California” “Southern California” and — wait for it — “California.”

Northern California would run north, up from Santa Cruz County in the south, extending east past Merced and including (barely) Yosemite National Park.

Southern California would run from Fresno County south through much of the interior, excluding Los Angeles County but including San Diego.

The New California would run along the coast from Monterey south, including Los Angeles.

As proposed, Northern California in blue, Southern California in light blue and California in dark blue. (Wikipedia)

Draper said in a written  statement that there is “an unprecedented show of support on behalf of every corner of California to create three state governments that emphasize representation, responsiveness, reliability and regional identity.”

A recent poll, however, told a different story: Less than one-fifth of those surveyed liked the idea, and more than two-thirds opposed it.

And those who have proposed splitting away from California to form a State of Jefferson — people in two dozen of California’s 58 counties have signed declarations supporting the idea — don’t like Draper’s plan, either, contending it would simply replace one centralized authority with another.

“We will not submit to subjugation,” said State of Jefferson spokesman Mark Baird, a Siskiyou County resident. “It would just be adding more deck chairs to the Titanic.”

Draper, he added “did not ask anyone in the affected counties whether they wanted to join this new construct.” The State of Jefferson, a which has been advocated for at least 80 years, would have a population of slightly more than 1.7 million under its latest proposal.

Under Draper’s plan, each new state would be approximately equal in population, but not in wealth.  With Silicon Valley and San Francisco, Northern California would have the second-highest per-capita income in the nation, and Southern California would have the 30th.  The new California would have the 12th highest.

The split-up would require more than just approval from Californians. The governor would be directed to ask Congress for its OK.

Proponents argue that the state as presently constituted with nearly 40 million residents has become ungovernable.  State government is too remote from the people, too unresponsive, and a state bigger than many nations is simply unwieldy. A California state senator represents nearly one million constituents and a member of the Assembly 500,000.

An April 19-23 poll from Survey USA had 17 percent of respondents in favor of the idea and 72 percent opposed.  Ten percent were undecided.

But qualifying the idea for the Nov. 6 ballot is only the beginning of what would be a long, obstacle-strewn path.

The split-up would require more than just approval from Californians. The governor would be directed to ask Congress for its OK. If Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is elected governor in the fall that approval wouldn’t be given enthusiastically — he’s already come out against it.

With two new states, four more senators would be added to the two senators the state now sends to Washington.  At least two of the new states – Northern California and new California – would be deep blue.  Southern California would be more of a question mark.  It could go either way.  But the possibility of four new senators, at least two of them from areas where Democrats have long ruled supreme, makes Republicans shudder.

UC’s 10 campuses would be divided up among the three new states:  Northern California would have five, new California would have two and Southern California would have three.

The impact on both private and public organizations would be dramatic.  Wells Fargo and Bank of America, for instance, would find themselves engaged in new and additional interstate commerce with its rules and regulations; trucking companies would face the same situation, and so would hardware and department store chains, to name just a few.

It’s entirely possible that some overeager state bureaucrat in, say, Southern California would order checking stations set up at the state line to look over flowers and produce brought in from Northern California.  The Water Wars that have raged for decades between the north and the south of California would only be intensified. Lawsuits revolving around California’s complex system for distributing water would be inevitable.  Gov. Jerry Brown’s delta tunnel project and his high-speed rail plan would, at the very least, become more complicated. The California National Guard would have to be divided up.

We’d lose some bragging rights.  The University of California system, with 238,000 students and more than 190,000 faculty and staff, has won a total of 62 Nobel prizes.  Its 10 campuses would be divided up among the three new states:  Northern California would have five, new California would have two and Southern California would have three.

Given the poll numbers and the political hurdles, it is extremely doubtful that California will be split up.

Before the split-up took effect, lawmakers and staff would have to do a great deal of pick-and-shovel work allotting debt and distributing assets such as tax proceeds. Each new state would have to write a constitution.

Splitting up California is a fun topic for political junkies, but it’s far from a new topic. From the time it became a state, there have been proposals to split California into smaller entities — more than 200 of them, in fact.  Sometimes the split is north-south, sometimes east-west, sometimes coastal-interior.

A serious proposal in the 19th century to split the state north-south at the Tehachapi mountains was prompted by the difficulty of transporting goods over the mountain range. But the proposed split was abandoned after engineers said a highway over the mountains was feasible. The road, first called the Ridge Route, is now Interstate 5 over the Tejon Pass.

Given the poll numbers and the political hurdles, it is extremely doubtful that California will be split up.

But its adherents can take comfort from the fact that Sacramento is getting a message that a chunk of the state’s population, mostly in rural areas, regard state government as unresponsive, remote and expensive. What that might, or might not, lead to could be the subject of even more speculation.

 


  • Rally Sally

    This is the way the PEOPLE in 23 counties want to split the state, and Mr. Draper didn’t even bother to ask them what they wanted. The State of Jefferson will be a smaller rural state, which will restore Representation to every county. soj51.org
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7a3bba2c6c3890f0b4ab91a2eab0df925a647b67b7d81c1e77f965d91d48ae61.jpg

  • Tommy Hudspeth

    never going to happen, to many electoral votes could be taken away from the liberal democrats that have a strangle hold on the state. Los Angles and Northern california pretty much hold the power of the vote and sway it towards the liberals. They would go crazy if they had to split that tax money they love to spend.

  • Tommy Jefferson

    Soj51.org

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