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Monday, July 4, 2011

The 51st State?

It is very difficult to create a new state from an existing one. For one thing, each state has an intricate set of internal connections, as the case of California demonstrates.

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has proposed creating a new state out of 13 counties in Southern California, including his own. The North County Times reports that Supervisor Bob Buster has practical 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.

Much of the region's water is piped in from Northern California through a complex system of canals, reservoirs and levees that stretches for hundreds of miles.

And 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.

San Diego and Orange counties aside, he said, most of the other candidate counties have weak economies with high unemployment.

And Buster said it doesn't make sense to form a South California without Los Angeles County.

"We have to work with Los Angeles on a wide variety of regional issues," he said, mentioning water, transportation, air pollution, international trade and the huge amount of freight that rolls through the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

And there are constitutional hurdles. 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.
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. Nothing like it 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.

And then, Congress would have to approve. Democrats would strongly 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.