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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The New State of South California

“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another." — Thomas Jefferson

In 1863 the western part of Virginia, not agreeing with the secessionist policies in Richmond, decided to break off from Virginia and form the new state of West Virginia.

According to an article in Wikipedia West Virginia was the only state in the Union to secede from a Confederate state (Virginia) during the American Civil War. In Richmond on April 17, 1861, the 49 delegates from the future state of West Virginia voted 17 in favor of the Ordinance of Secession, 30 against and 2 abstentions. Almost immediately after the vote to proceed with secession from the Union prevailed in the Virginia General Assembly, a mass meeting at Clarksburg recommended that each county in northwestern Virginia send delegates to a convention to meet in Wheeling on May 13, 1861. When this First Wheeling Convention met, 425 delegates from 25 counties were present, though more than one-third of the delegates were from the northern panhandle area, but soon there was a division of sentiment.

Some delegates favored the immediate formation of a new state, while others argued that, as Virginia's secession had not yet been passed by the required referendum, such action would constitute revolution against the United States. It was decided that if the ordinance were adopted (of which there was little doubt), another convention including the members-elect of the legislature should meet at Wheeling in June. At the election on May 23, 1861, secession was ratified by a large majority in the state as a whole, but in the western counties 34,677 voted against and 19,121 voted for the Ordinance.

The Second Wheeling Convention met as agreed on June 11 and declared that, since the Secession Convention had been called without the consent of the people, all its acts were void, and that all who adhered to it had vacated their offices. The Wheeling Conventions, and the delegates themselves, were never actually elected by public ballot to act on behalf of western Virginia. An act for the reorganization of the government was passed on June 19. The next day Francis H. Pierpont was chosen by other delegates at the convention to be governor of Virginia, other officers were elected and the convention adjourned. The legislature was composed of 103 members, 33 of whom had been elected to the Virginia General Assembly on May 23.

The Wheeling Convention, which had taken a recess until August 6, reassembled on August 20, and called for a popular vote on the formation of a new state and for a convention to frame a constitution if the vote should be favorable. At the October 24, 1861 election, 18,408 votes were cast for the new state and only 781 against. The honesty of these election results has been questioned, since the Union army then occupied the area and Union troops were stationed at many of the polls to prevent Confederate sympathizers from voting. Most of the affirmative votes came from 16 counties around the Northern panhandle. Over 50,000 votes had been cast on the Ordinance of Secession, yet the vote on statehood gathered little more than 19,000.

In Ohio County, home to Wheeling, only about one-quarter of the registered voters cast votes. At the Constitutional Convention in November 1861, Mr. Lamb of Ohio County and Mr. Carskadon said that in Hampshire County, out of 195 votes only 39 were cast by citizens of the state; the rest were cast illegally by Union soldiers. In most of what would become West Virginia, there was no vote at all as two-thirds of the territory of West Virginia had voted for secession and county officers were still loyal to Richmond. Votes recorded from pro-secession counties were mostly cast elsewhere by Unionist refugees from these counties. The convention began on November 26, 1861, and finished its work on February 18, 1862; the instrument was ratified (18,162 for and 514 against) on April 11, 1862.

On May 13 the state legislature of the reorganized government approved the formation of the new state. An application for admission to the Union was made to Congress, and on December 31, 1862, an enabling act was approved by Pres. Abraham Lincoln admitting West Virginia, on the condition that a provision for the gradual abolition of slavery be inserted in its constitution. While many felt that West Virginia's admission as a state was both illegal and unconstitutional, Lincoln issued his Opinion on the Admission of West Virginia finding that "the body which consents to the admission of West Virginia, is the Legislature of Virginia," and that its admission was therefore both constitutional and expedient.

The convention was reconvened on February 12, 1863, and the demand was met. The revised constitution was adopted on March 26, 1863, and on April 20, 1863, Pres. Lincoln issued a proclamation admitting the state at the end of 60 days (June 20, 1863). Meanwhile, officers for the new state were chosen and Gov. Pierpont moved his capital to Union-occupied Alexandria, where he asserted jurisdiction over all of the Virginia counties within the Federal lines.

The question of the constitutionality of the formation of the new state was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in the following manner: Berkeley and Jefferson counties lying on the Potomac east of the mountains, in 1863, with the consent of the reorganized government of Virginia voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia. Many voters of the strongly pro-secessionist counties were absent in the Confederate Army when the vote was taken and refused to acknowledge the transfer upon their return. The Virginia General Assembly repealed the act of secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia, asking the court to declare the counties a part of Virginia which would have declared West Virginia's admission as a state unconstitutional. Meanwhile, on March 10, 1866, Congress passed a joint resolution recognizing the transfer. The Supreme Court, in 1870, decided in favor of West Virginia.

During the American Civil War, West Virginia suffered comparatively little. Union General George B. McClellan's forces gained possession of the greater part of the territory in the summer of 1861, culminating at the Battle of Rich Mountain, and Union control was never again seriously threatened, despite an attempt by Robert E. Lee in the same year. In 1863, General John D. Imboden, with 5,000 Confederates, overran a considerable portion of the state. Bands of guerrillas burned and plundered in some sections, and were not entirely suppressed until after the war ended. The Eastern Panhandle counties were more affected by the war, with military control of the area repeatedly changing hands.

The area which became West Virginia actually furnished about an equal number of soldiers to the Federal and Confederate armies, approximately 22,000–25,000 each. The Wheeling government found it necessary in 1865 to strip voting rights from returning Confederates in order to retain control. James Ferguson, who proposed the law, said that if it was not enacted he would lose election by 500 votes. The property of Confederates might also be confiscated, and in 1866 a constitutional amendment disfranchising all who had given aid and comfort to the Confederacy was adopted. The addition of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution caused a reaction. The Democratic Party secured control in 1870, and in 1871, the constitutional amendment of 1866 was abrogated. The first steps toward this change had been taken, however, by the Republicans in 1870. On August 22, 1872, an entirely new constitution was adopted.

Beginning in Reconstruction, and for several decades thereafter, the two states disputed the new state's share of the pre-war Virginia government's debts, which had mostly been incurred to finance public infrastructure improvements, such as canals, roads, and railroads under the Virginia Board of Public Works. Virginians, led by former Confederate General William Mahone, formed a political coalition which was based upon this, the Readjuster Party. Although West Virginia's first constitution provided for the assumption of a part of the Virginia debt, negotiations opened by Virginia in 1870 were fruitless, and in 1871, Virginia funded two-thirds of the debt and arbitrarily assigned the remainder to West Virginia. The issue was finally settled in 1915, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that West Virginia owed Virginia $12,393,929.50. The final installment of this sum was paid in 1939. [Source: Wikipedia]

Fast forward to 2011 and California. With all of the problems in California from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation to a horrific budget deficit and a state burdened with unsustainable unfunded liabilities for public service employee’s pensions and health care many people in the Golden State, especially in the south are growing tired of being run by the socialist in Los Angeles county and the San Francisco Bay area. In election after election the southern and inland counties vote Republican, but they are overridden by the demographics of Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Sacramento continuously passes legislation that the people of the south do not want. Even the referendum process is negated by the liberal California Supreme Court. We, in the south, do not want to live under the plunderous rule of Sacramento.

My county supervisor, Jeff Stone, a pharmacist from Temecula, has come up with a plan to separate 13 southern and inland counties from the rest of the state and call it South California. We have a South Carolina and a South Dakota, so why not a South California. If these 13 counties broke away from Sacramento it would create a 51st state that would be the fifth largest by population, more populous than Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. South California would take nearly a third of the population away from California, making the Golden State the second-largest state after Texas. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The 51st state should be named South California, says Jeff Stone, a Republican on the the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. But the proposed 13 southern California counties that would split off from the Golden State would not include Los Angeles.

Stone told the Times' Phil Willon that the omission is intentional and is part of a plan that would make for a new conservative Californian state.

"Los Angeles is purposely excluded because they have the same liberal policies that Sacramento does. The last thing I want to do is create a state that's a carbon copy of what we have now,'' Stone said.

"Los Angeles just enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags. That put three or four manufacturers out of business,'' Stone, a pharmacist from Temecula, said.

Stone plans on formally proposing secession Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

South California would encompass Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Tulare counties, totaling approximately 13 million people.

The proposed 51st state would be the fifth largest by population, more populous than Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. South California would take nearly a third of the population away from California, making the Golden State the second-largest state after Texas.

Eleven of the 13 proposed counties in South California traditionally vote Republican, a fact noticed by California Gov. Jerry Brown's office.

"If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there's a place called Arizona," Brown spokesman Gil Duran said.”

Secession proposals of this nature are a hardy perennial on the Left and Right alike, and are almost always bad ideas, although there is at least a fair argument that California as currently constituted is (1) too large any longer to serve the role of responding to local needs unmet from Washington that is a major part of why we have a federal system in the first place, (2) essentially dysfunctional, and (3) particularly unresponsive to the needs of the 13 million residents of the 13 counties in question.

But what’s really interesting here isn’t a proposal by one member of the board of one county, but rather the response by a spokesman for Governor Jerry Brown:

“If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there’s a place called Arizona,” Brown spokesman Gil Duran said.

Now, I don’t know about you, but saying that millions of residents should just leave the state if they don’t like California’s liberal laws, dysfunctional finances and horrendous business climate doesn’t really disprove the point that the Sacramento elite really and truly do not care about the Republican-leaning parts of the state or the people in them. California’s unemployment rate is 11.7% compared to 9.1% for the nation as a whole (given California’s size, I’d guess without doing the math that means the rest of the country may be as much as a full three points below CA). Even the NY Times says California’s budget crisis may be the worst in the nation, with a $26.6 billion budget deficit comprising nearly a third of the state’s budget. California owes $2,362 in debt per resident of the state, and pays a 20% premium to borrow money compared to better-run states; its A- credit rating from Standard & Poor’s is the worst in the nation. A recent budget deal only barely convinced S&P to avoid an immediate further downgrade, and S&P is still concerned that the deal doesn’t solve the state’s long-term “backlog of budget obligations accumulated during the past decade”.

Just last month Governor Brown sent a delegation to Texas to meet with Governor Rick Perry to see what he was doing to make the Texas economy strong and grow business and jobs. The delegation was headed by our Lieutenant Governor, the uber liberal ex-mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsome. California is losing 5.2 businesses each day to its neighboring states while Sacramento passes more and more onerous takes and imposes business killing regulations dictated by the liberal majority.

California's northern and southern ends have little in common. The cultural and economic differences between inland and coastal counties have produced political gridlock. We're the Balkans — minus the wars and centuries of Turkish rule.

There have been at least 220 secession attempts in California since the 1850s. The fact that people keep trying to split the state reflects both frustration with government and hunger for a magical fix.

Jeff Stone, a Riverside County supervisor, is the latest official to say that two Californias are better than one.

Angered by a state raid of $14 million in vehicle license fee money from four new Riverside County cities to balance Gov. Jerry Brown's budget, Stone proposes that 13 breakaway counties form the nation's 51st state.

And even though people in San Joaquin Valley counties such as Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Madera and Mariposa don't think of themselves as "SoCal," Stone desires them because of their conservative tilt.

In fact, he already has suggested a platform for governance: low taxes, no term limits, part-time legislature.

If you are wondering about the biggest SoCal county of all — Los Angeles — Stone wants no part of Hollywood, liberals and the Democratic machine. His dream map skips L.A. but takes in Orange and San Diego counties.

Stone's plan is dead on arrival because forming a new state is all but impossible. The last state to secede was West Virginia, which broke free of Virginia during the Civil War in a process that likely violated the Constitution.

Besides, South California doesn't pencil out. Despite Stone's assertion that it would prosper because of lower taxes and less regulation, his new state would miss the powerful economic engines of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Support for Stone's idea isn't limited to conservatives. There are people on the left who'd love to have a version of California to call their own. The liberal San Francisco Bay Guardian editorializes:

"Imagine what would happen if Supervisor Stone got his way. Democrats would control two-thirds of both houses and could pass a budget that included higher taxes on the rich and big corporations. ... Same-sex marriage would pass the first week. Pot would be legal. The death penalty would be gone in a year or two.

"And let's remember: those counties that want to leave? They elect representatives who won't vote for taxes — but they are the biggest beneficiaries of state revenues. The northern and coastal counties, the more liberal ones, pay more in taxes than we get in services. Our taxpayers are subsidizing their tax haters.

"So go on — leave. We'll keep our money here."

Gov. Brown’s office may think that’s a record to get cocky about, but maybe it’s time California showed a little humility about the failures of its political culture and business climate, and learned a few things from its more conservative neighbors – and maybe even from some of its own citizens.

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