The California Supreme Court has blocked a measure that would divide the state in three from appearing on the November ballot.
The justices on Wednesday ordered the secretary of state not to put the initiative before voters, saying significant questions have been raised about its validity.
The court will now consider the merits of a challenge brought by the Planning and Conservation League. The environmental group argues that dividing the nation’s most populous state in three would drastically change California’s government structure beyond what can be accomplished through a ballot initiative.
Northern California, roughly the Bay Area to the Oregon border; California, which would include six coastal counties, including Los Angeles, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, San Benito and Ventura; and Southern California, which would go from Fresno to San Diego, excluding those six coastal counties.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper is funding the measure and has said it would be inappropriate for the court to block it from the ballot.
California’s boundaries were established at its first constitutional convention in 1849. Currently, the State Constitution provides that “the boundaries of the State are those stated in the Constitution of 1849 as modified pursuant to statute.” Statutory modifications to California’s boundaries generally have been minor.
While this constitutional provision allows statutes to change California’s borders, nothing in the State Constitution explicitly addresses how California might go about splitting itself into two or more new states. In this section, we describe other examples of proposed and actual state splits, as well as other provisions of the U.S. and State Constitutions that might affect such a proposal.
Statutory Measure to Split California. This measure states that it is an initiative measure through which “the people, acting as the legislative body of the State of California,” change state statutes to:
Establish new boundaries for three new U.S. states within the boundaries of the existing State of California.
Provide the state legislative consent for the formation of those three new states to Congress as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Establish a process to transform the existing State of California into the three new states.
Proposed New States
Proposed New States. The measure proposes to split the existing State of California into three new states—shown in Figure 1 (see next page)—to be named Northern California, California, and Southern California. The map in Figure 1 also shows the six most populous cities in each of the three new states.
Key Statutory Provisions
Request to Congress. The measure requires the Governor to transmit a formal notice of its approval to the Congress on January 1, 2019. The Governor must ask the Congress to act upon the proposed split of California within 12 months of that date.
Process to Divide California. The measure requires the California Legislature to respond to the initiative by dividing and transforming the existing State of California into the three new states. If the Legislature does not act on these matters within 12 months of congressional approval to divide the state, the debts of the existing State of California will be distributed among the three new states based on their populations, while existing state assets within the boundaries of each of the new states will become assets of that new state. The measure also references the need for each of the three new states to adopt a new constitution by convention or popular vote.
The existing State of California—with about 39.5 million people—is the most populous U.S. state. Following creation of the three new states, there would be 52 U.S. states (the three in this proposal plus the other 49 states). Key facts about the three states’ populations are described below.
Southern California. Based on the most recent state population estimates, Southern California—with 13.9 million people—would be the fourth most populous state behind Texas, Florida, and New York. The population of the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties) equals about one-third of the total. San Diego County and Orange County have similar populations—each with just over one fifth of the new state’s total. To the north, counties in the Southern San Joaquin Valley collectively include just under one-fifth of the new state’s population.
Northern California. Northern California—with 13.3 million people—would rank approximately fifth among the states in population (just ahead of Illinois and Pennsylvania). About 60 percent of the population lives in the Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma Counties). About 17 percent lives in the Sacramento region, while 12 percent lives in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Most of the rest of the population lives in relatively rural counties along the northern Sacramento River, the North Coast, and the Sierra Nevada, Cascade, Coast, and Klamath mountain ranges.
California. The new state called California—with 12.3 million people—would rank approximately eighth among the states in population (behind Pennsylvania and ahead of Ohio). Los Angeles County has over 10 million residents: more than 80 percent of the new state’s population. The second-largest county in the new state—Ventura County, with 857,000 residents—has 7 percent of the population.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
July 18th, 2018