51st state? Small step forward for long-shot 'South California' plan
A Republican member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors wants his county and 12 others to secede from California and form the 51st state. His colleagues gave him an unenthusiastic go ahead Tuesday to explore the idea.
An effort to turn 13 southern California counties into the nation's 51st state took a small step forward Tuesday but remains an extremely long shot, say experts.Skip to next paragraph
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Four members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to allow a fifth member to convene a statewide meeting on the subject in the fall. Each of the four supervisors stated their objections to the secession idea, but went ahead and approved the idea of at least talking about it when Supervisor Jeff Stone said he would “personally see to it” that private funding, not public money, would be used to hold the meeting.
Since the days of the gold rush, more than 220 campaigns to split California into halves or thirds have been tossed around. Mr. Stone's vision involves persuading 13 counties to secede from the state, which he says raids local coffers to plug budget gaps.
Stone's idea has some merit, some analysts say. It addresses the problematic balance of power between Sacramento and California localities, as well as the political reality that the 13 counties in Stone's secession drive are far more conservative than the rest of the state. But the vision remains legally and politically unrealistic, many add, and is perhaps not the best solution to the problems it seeks address.
“Even if everyone in the 13 counties approved of partition, it would still require the approval of the California Legislature. Though theoretically possible, such approval is practically impossible,” says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.
Nothing like Stone's plan has happened since West Virginia broke off from Virginia during the Civil War – and then “only because a rump legislature approved after the regular legislature joined the Confederacy,” says Professor Pitney.
Stone's South California would not include Los Angeles. In addition to Riverside County, the counties targeted for secession would be Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Tulare, which include about 13 million people total.
Republicans account for the majority of registered voters in all but two of the 13 counties – San Bernardino and Imperial. For that reason, the idea has merit, says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.