SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) –The nation’s most populous state and its $2.7 trillion economy could be broken up, as California officials late Tuesday qualified a plan for the November ballot that would slice the Golden State in three.
Come November, voters will have the opportunity to start the process of splitting California into three separate states.
Sponsored by longtime Silicon Valley titan Tim Draper, the initiative proposes creating three states – Northern California, Southern California and just California, which would cover Los Angeles and parts of Orange County.
According to elections officials’ random sampling, Draper and proponents have collected over 419,000 valid voter signatures, enough to land the far-reaching proposition on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot.
Draper, a venture capitalist who founded the tech company involved in the success of Hotmail and Skype, has described the proposal as a “fresh start” and a way to escape the traditional “controlling influences” that shape California policy. He says the measure will weaken labor unions and advocacy groups’ influence over state lawmakers.
“It’s time to clear the decks and now is the time; now is the only time,” Draper said last week in a Reuters interview.
Draper did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday morning.
If passed by a majority of voters, the upstart plan would still have to clear judicial, state and congressional hurdles. The process would require adding four U.S. senators along with sweeping changes to the existing Electoral College makeup.
If ultimately successful, the country would split a state for the first since the Civil War when West Virginia broke from Virginia in 1863.
While the initiative is sparking increased nationwide media attention, opponents are not exactly sounding the alarm.
Steven Maviglio, a Democratic consultant and spokesman for a group opposing the split, says Draper’s measure is a “massive distraction” and would increase the numbers of lobbyists and bureaucrats.
“This measure would cost taxpayers billions of dollars to pay for the massive transactional costs of breaking up the state, whether it be universities, parks or retirement systems,” Maviglio said in a statement.
Leery state lawmakers discussed the plan referred to as “Cal-3” last week at the state Capitol. Some blasted Draper and proponents for skipping the informational hearing.
“It’s too bad, I’m not quite sure why they proposed the measure and spent all that money to gather signatures and refused to be here to be able to talk about it,” said Democratic state Senator Mark Stone. “To not have a proponent here is frustrating, and in my view, a little bit surprising.”
Draper spent millions on an unsuccessful bid to place a measure on the 2016 ballot that would have split California into six pieces.
Under Draper’s qualified proposal, California’s governor would ask Congress to approve the split within 12 months. If the California Legislature is unable to agree on how to divvy up the state’s debts, the existing debt would be distributed among the new states based on population relative to California’s population as a whole, and the assets within the boundaries of each new state will be owned by the new state.
The proposed Northern California would encompass counties from the Oregon border to Santa Cruz. Southern California would extend from the U.S.-Mexico border and contain most of the Central Valley. The final piece, called simply California, would encompass the coastal cities in the Los Angeles area north of Orange County.