State of Jefferson supporters could hear news as early as this week if a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Fair Representation, a group affiliated with the movement to create a new state from 21 Northern California counties, will move forward in Federal Court. The group, who filed the lawsuit against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla last May, is hoping Judge Kimberly Mueller will advance the matter to a three-judge court rather than simply dismiss it, as requested by the state.
Jefferson supporters, which met in Williams last Thursday, hope the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case, Shapirio v. McManus, will give their lawsuit the standing to move forward. In a unanimous opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, before his death, the court ruled that federal districts courts are required to refer cases to a three-judge panel when plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts.
Jefferson leaders believe the same principle should apply to state assembly and senate districts.
“California has been a problem in many ways over the years, and it’s getting scarier as time goes by,” said Lew Manor, of Colusa.
Manor said many people agree that California is too large to govern, and that rural counties are underrepresented with legislative districts that are based on population.
The 21 northern counties that make up more than one third of California have a share of nine state-level representatives, while 37 southern California counties have 111.
Citizens for Fair Representation, the non-profit group of the Jefferson movement, ultimately hopes to compel state lawmakers to either create a better balance of representation at the State Capitol, or allow California to be split into two more manageable states.
But they aren’t the only group hoping to see a division. On Monday, another group, with their own Declaration of Independence, proposed to split California by carving out a portion of the coastal region from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and create the 51st state of New California from the remainder.
While both groups share similar grievances about over-taxation, over regulation, and a decline in basic services, Jefferson supporters don’t think the New California proposal will garner the support of residents and lawmakers in extremely rural counties.
The problem with the proposal, according to Terry Rapoza, a Jefferson movement leader, is that the California/New California division would maintain the same imbalance of power for both states that would only continue to dilute the vote of rural residents. Los Angeles lawmakers would control the decision-making process in the Assembly and Senate for California, and San Diego lawmakers would control the decision-making process in the Assembly and Senate for New California, Rapoza said, with very few legislators representing rural counties and their unique issues.
“This (New California split) does nothing for equal representation,” Rapoza said. “As go the large population centers, so goes the entire state.”
The California/New California split would also likely increase, not decrease, the number of taxpayer-funded government bureaucracies needed to manage yet another state with a large urban population.
California currently has about 570 government bureaucracies, compared to New Mexico, which has approximately 37, Manor said.
“We have created the highest overall tax state in the United States, when you consider income tax, sales tax, gas tax and so forth,” he added. “All put together, it is one of the highest – if not the highest – tax state.”
Manor said that while rural counties have been taxed, they have no say as to how those taxes are spent.
Additionally, he said, California’s strict regulations on the environment have hurt the North’s logging and farming industries, and put the mining industry completely out of business, while the state has wasted billions on failing infrastructure.
But however the state is ultimately divided, should either Jefferson or New California move forward, the California State Legislature and the U.S. Congress would have to give consent to admit a new state to the union per Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution.
Rapoza said the next step for the Jefferson proposal depends on the complaint, now amended per the judge’s order, getting before the three-judge court.
“If that happens, it won’t matter what their decision is…it will ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rapoza added.
Meanwhile, Jefferson supporters continue to work on a draft State Constitution, which would essentially mirror the federal model of government. ■