Secession!! Wait… in Colorado??

**Posted by Phineas

Proposed new state highlighted in tan
Proposed new state highlighted in tan

We’ve had another outbreak of one part of a state wanting to tell another to go to… Well, just “go away.” It comes up periodically in California, where there’s often talk of breaking the state in two for being too big, and the far northern counties periodically get sick of being ignored and make noises about forming the State of Jefferson with some Oregon counties.

Now its Colorado’s turn. In addition to being upset over the recent passage of repressive gun laws, residents of rural parts of the state are angry over state efforts to promote renewable energy sources over fossil fuels, the latter of which are important to northern Colorado’s economy. And, having had enough abuse, eight counties want form their own state:

“Northern and Northeastern Colorado and our voices are being ignored in the legislative process this year, and our very way of life is under attack,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway told Coloradoan.com.

“This is not a stunt. This is a very serious deliberative discussion that’s going on,” Conway told CBS Denver. “There’s a real feeling that a lot of folks who come from the urban areas don’t appreciate the contribution that many Coloradans contribute.”

Officials from Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma and Kit Carson counties were involved in the discussions, Conway said, adding that two counties in Nebraska are interested in joining the new state.

“We need to figure out way to re-enfranchise the people who feel politically disenfranchised now and ignored,” he said.

Conway and his coalition are hoping to put the question of secession to voters in November through a ballot referendum.

Splitting a state is a tough thing to do. The Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) requires approval of the state legislature and Congress, as well as any requirements under Colorado law. Denver Democrats, even if they don’t like fossil fuels, probably like the tax revenue they generate, while D.C. Democrats aren’t likely to want to create what would almost certainly be two new Republican senators. The last time a new state was carved out of another, it was West Virginia in 1863, and let’s just say the circumstances were a bit unusual at the time.

But I’m not unsympathetic; the Democrat-dominated legislature was arrogant when they shoved through the new gun laws in the face of strong popular opposition, apparently listening more to Washington pols and outside groups like Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, than their own voters. And being economically harmed can lead to harsh feelings, too. (Just ask people who used to work in the logging and mining industries in northern California.)

In fact, I’m surprised there aren’t more efforts by rural counties to escape the control of the often left-leaning metropolises that have come to dominate several states and treat their rural brethren as barely tolerated rubes, there to pay taxes and otherwise shut up. Southern Illinois seems to have every reason to secede from Chicago, for example, and friends in eastern Washington often complain about Seattle’s dominance of their state. And if anyone has a real gripe, it’s southern and western New York.

I’ll keep an eye on this and report on developments. In a time of political and economic ferment, a movement like this might just succeed.

RELATED: A CBS Denver article linked by the Yahoo report mentions a backup plan, should the effort to create North Colorado fail — a push to change the state senate from representation by district to one senator for each county. It’s an interesting idea to redress urban dominance, mirroring the philosophy behind the Great Compromise over the federal House and Senate. It might be a better idea than splitting the state, but I really can’t see Denver-area Democrats agreeing to (almost certainly) hand this much power to conservatives. It would have to be done by ballot initiative.

UPDATE: Looks like some southern Colorado counties want in …er… out… um… both, too, and some western Nebraska and Kansas counties have expressed interest in the idea.

 (Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Comments are closed.