The California Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to block a ballot initiative to split the state into three parts after the measure had gathered enough signatures to put it before the voters in November.
In a unanimous order, the six judges said they decided to remove Proposition 9 from the ballot “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Planning and Conservation League, an environmental group based in Sacramento, filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court last week arguing that the measure would amount to a revision of the California Constitution. Amendments to the state constitution require two-thirds approval from both houses of the state legislature before they can go on the ballot.
The court said it would consider arguments from both sides at a future hearing before determining whether to place the measure on the ballot in 2020.
The proposition would divide California into three states: one called Northern California that would run from the Oregon border down to the San Francisco metropolitan area, a second called California that would constitute a coastal strip from south of San Francisco down to the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and a third dubbed Southern California that would include everything else from Fresno to Bakersfield to San Diego.
The measure qualified for the ballot after Bay Area billionaire Tim Draper, the main proponent and bankroller of the initiative, gathered 402,000 signatures from valid, registered voters and submitted them in April.
Draper contends that California is ungovernable due to “poorly performing schools, crumbling infrastructure and a political system controlled by powerful special interests” and that it should be divided into “three smaller, more manageable states.”
This is the third time the billionaire has attempted to split up the state: He previously bankrolled efforts in 2012 and 2014 to create six separate Californias. His most recent endeavor has cost him around $5 million.
“Apparently, the insiders are in cahoots and the establishment doesn’t want to find out how many people don’t like the way California is being governed,” Draper said in a statement to HuffPost on Wednesday. “Whether you agree or not with this initiative,” he added, “this is not the way democracies are supposed to work.”
Others disagreed. The Planning and Conservation League applauded the court’s order.
“Proposition 9 was a costly, flawed scheme that will waste billions of California taxpayer dollars, create chaos in public services including safeguarding our environment and literally eliminate the State of California ― all to satisfy the whims of one billionaire,” the group’s executive director, Howard Penn, said in a statement. “It would have dismantled the world’s 5th biggest economy without solving a single challenge facing Californians today.”
Fabian Nuñez, a member of the opposition group OneCalifornia Committee and a former speaker of the California Assembly, said it “gives direct democracy a bad name” that the measure was put on the ballot in the first place.
“We are hopeful that Tim Draper will end his attempts to split up our state and use his resources to help California meet its challenges and become an even better place to live and work,” Nuñez said.