South California Secession Proposal: 5 Questions Answered

07/15/2011 11:21 am ET | Updated Sep 14, 2011

Is the Golden State breaking up?

On Tuesday, the California's Riverside County Board of Directors unanimously approved a motion for further discussion and debate regarding the proposed secession of 13 counties that would, if approved, form the 51st state in the union -- South California.

Republican Riverside County Board member Jeff Stone, a Temecula-based pharmacist, is spearheading the effort, which encompasses approximately 13 million people in thirteen counties -- Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Tulare.

To simplify and break down the issue, here are 5 questions about the proposed Southern California secession -- answered.

Has this idea surfaced before?
Oh yes. There have been at least two-dozen notable attempts at secession during California's 160 year history, most recently in 1992. In fact, plenty of other states have also had their own partitioning movements over the years. According to one website tracking the arguments for and against a divided California, a perhaps more prevalent proposal is for a California divided into three states -- Northern California, Coastal California and Souther California.

Why do they want to secede anyway?
Stone and his supporers are fed up with the leadership in Sacramento and aren't going to stand for it anymore. According to The New York Times, Stone has called "completely dysfunctional" and "totally unresponsive," and has a shopping list of complaints ranging from over empowered public unions to the state being soft on immigration.

He says:

“We have businesses leaving all the time, and we’re just driving down a cliff to become a third-world economy. Anyone you ask has a horror story. At some point we have to decide enough is enough and deal with it in a radically new way.”

One theory suggests that hard economic times will sprout such political moves, but essentially this comes down to an ideological rift between the conservative southern counties and more liberal leadership.

What does it take to secede?
As you probably guessed, the country's laws aren't exactly structured to readily accommodate such action. As is explained in the video above, secession is both a state and federal issue, meaning that for it to pass, the measure would require either a ballot initiative or approval from Sacramento as well as a blessing from Congress, which would require the president's signature.

Where do we stand as of now?
This movement remains in its infant stages. A meeting has been scheduled for the fall so for no it's really a case of "hurry up and wait."

How likely is that we'll need to buy a new flag with 51 stars?
Let's be honest -- it's not likely. Even though another meeting is scheduled for the fall, no Riverside County funds can be used to finance the event, another sign that the effort may not have the backing it needs to succeed.

There's also a whole slew of issues that any California secession effort is destined to run up against.

KCET writer Chris Clarke highlights a few:

Splitting the state of California would likely take herculean effort just to clarify each California's role in the Colorado River Compact, the 1922 pact that allocates the river's water among the seven states in its basin. Would the leftovers of California even have a claim on that water if none of the state was within the Colorado River's basin? You can be sure that would be decided, at great length and great expense, in a courtroom.

Other problems would include the division of the California State and University of California systems: three UC campuses and six Cal State schools would find themselves in the new state.

All of which is to say definitely keep an eye on this effort, but don't necessarily bet on it.

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