The Secretary of State says backers of an initiative to divide California into six states can start gathering signatures to put it on the ballot.
The plan is the brainchild of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has backed companies like Hot Mail, Skype and Tesla. He says the state is too large to govern efficiently and that residents don’t have a responsive government.
Just last year, several northern California counties began efforts to form their own state. Draper’s plan gives them their own state. Sacramento is lumped in with Marin County for form a northern California state. Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside anchor three other states.
But some people are skeptical.
“I’m suspicious,” Solano County resident Terri Bales said.
That’s because one of the six states is called Silicon Valley and includes wealthy San Francisco and San Jose. Critics say Draper is tired of state regulations out of Sacramento that hinder development of technologies like drones and driverless cars. Some believe he wants tax revenues generated by new companies to be put back in high-tech development rather than going to central valley farmers for instance.
“That’s power-hungry and money hungry. He’s just trying to keep his money next to him where he can spend it the way he wants to,” said Sacramento resident Joel Crawford.
Northern Californians have long complained that sending its water south is the result of a legislature dominated by L.A. lawmakers. Crawford said he could see breaking California up into two states makes sense, but said six states is overkill.
“There’s no need for it,” said Crawford.
It will take 808,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Even if Draper has a grassroots base of support, and there is no evidence that he does, it might take several million dollars to gather enough signatures. Many efforts now rely on professional signature gathering companies. That won’t be a problem for Draper, who earlier spent $15 million of his own money to back an effort to bring a voucher program for schools. That effort ultimately failed.
Others see the proposal as totally impractical.
“You’d need a whole new highway patrol, a whole new capital, all these other expenses,” said Citrus Heights resident Tim Karn.
“I like California the way it is,” he added.
Draper has until July 18 to gather enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. Even if it is approved by voters, Congress must adopt the proposal.
In 1858, voters actually approved a two-way split of California. But Congress soon got preoccupied with the Civil War and the proposal never got Congressional approval.
The history of such efforts is telling. Since California became a state, there have been around 220 efforts to split California into different states. Over two dozen were considered serious efforts and, of course, none has succeeded.