Breaking Up is Hard To Do

The news today is filled with discussions around a proposition that will be on the November ballot. Quoting the LA Times:

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history. […] Northern California would consist of 40 counties stretching from Oregon south to Santa Cruz County, then east to Merced and Mariposa counties. Southern California would begin with Madera County in the Central Valley and then wind its way along the existing state’s eastern and southern spine, comprising 12 counties and ultimately curving up the Pacific coast to grab San Diego and Orange counties. Los Angeles County would anchor the six counties that retained the name California, a state that would extend northward along the coast to Monterey County.

Of course, this proposal will never go all the way: it has to pass Congress at the national level, and they would be loath to create something that might topple the balance of power in either the House or Senate. That’s why neither Puerto Rico nor DC have achieved statehood: they’d come in a strongly Democratic. But there are so many other problems with this proposal. One can easily see why the last successful state split was West Virginia, during the Civil War, in an era where there wasn’t much state level infrastructure.

But splitting California would have so many problems:

  • What would be the state postal code? After all, both NC and SC are taken. CN and CS and CA?
  • You think the state bureaucracy is bad now? Splitting means duplicating and recreating all of the government bureaucracy: Three governors, Three Lt. Governors, Three of every executive, Duplications of staffs and such. Where does the money to pay for all of that come from?
  • How will you divide infrastructure and infrastructure maintenance, especially when Caltrans districts straddle and cross state lines?
  • Think about all costs associated with resignage. Almost every sign on state highways would need to be replaced if they referenced the state name or used the state highway shield.
  • What do you do about funding of multiyear infrastructure improvement projects? How do you split the bonded indebtedness of projects that straddle state lines?
  • How do you handle water, especially when all of the major urban areas are importing their water from new California states?
  • How do we divide the costs of prisons, when they aren’t evenly distributed across the new states?
  • Think about the mess this creates for Cal State and UC, as they now become multiple systems? How would USC react to there being another USC (and note that both SCU and CSU are also taken)? How will UNC react to their being another UNC (and note that both NCU and CNU are also both taken)?

Most importantly, would I have to do the Californias Highway Pages?

Seriously, if you want to break up a state, break up Texas. They already have the Congressional approval to do so. Malcolm Gladwell of the Revisionist History podcast has a great episode on the subject; even the Texas Law Review cites it. Hint: No matter how you do it, the Republicans will lose, and lose big.

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