How South California Can Become One of the United States

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I will not discuss the merits of the recent discussion of creating “South California” from the southern (minus Los Angeles County and Ventura County) and eastern central California counties.  Here, however, is the legal process for South California to become a state.

“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”  United States Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1.  Thus, the first step would be for the California Legislature to approve of South California.  Then, Congress would have to approve of South California.

The last time this happened (successfully) was when West Virginia was formed from the northwestern counties of Virginia in 1863.  However, it was during the Civil War, so it wasn’t quite the actual Virginia legislature agreeing to split off a new state:

The people of the northwestern part of the State, who were separated from the eastern part by a succession of mountain ranges and had never received the heresy of secession, refused to acquiesce in what had been thus done, and organized themselves to defend and maintain the Federal Union. The idea of a separate State government soon developed itself; and an organic convention of the State of Virginia, which in June, 1861, organized the State on loyal principles-‘the Pierpont government’-and which new organization was acknowledged by the President and Congress of the United States as the true State government of Virginia-passed August 20th, 1861, an ordinance by which they ordained that a new State be formed and erected out of the territory included within certain boundaries (set forth) including within those boundaries of the proposed new State.  State of Virginia v. State of West Virginia, (1870) 78 U.S. 39, 40.

Congress passed “An Act for the admission of the State of ‘West Virginia’ into the Union, and for other purposes” on December 31, 1862, which President Lincoln issuing a proclamation on April 1863, admitting West Virginia into the Union within 60 days.

The Act Admitting Hawaii, Public Law 86-3, amended federal statutes to change Hawaii from a territory to a state.  Presumably, adding a new state would be more complicated.  In any case, it has been almost 150 years since a state split, and more than 50 years since a new state was added.  The act to admit Hawaii required a plebiscite, presumably Congress could require a popular vote before admitting South California.   The Act Admitting Hawaii also required a presidential proclamation, just like the Act admitting West Virginia. Arguably, the Constitution requires neither a popular vote nor presidential approval, or any executive branch action.

The tricky parts would be stripping out references to the seceding counties in California law.  Presumably, the new state would adopt the laws of California until such time that a new legislature could convene or a new constitutional convention could be held.
The California State Constitution would have to be amended.The boundaries of the State are those stated in the Constitution of 1849 as modified pursuant to statute. Sacramento is the capital of California.”  California Constitution, Art. 3, Sec. 2.

A whole host of California statutes would have to be amended as well, including the Government Code’s definitions of the boundaries of the State of California.

There would also be issues regarding interstate compacts, debts of the State of California, and of course, state water project water.  There would also be issues regarding State of California property, such as the University of California, which has three campuses in the proposed South California.  Needless to say, litigation would ensue.

Though I will not comment on the political merit of the proposal, the name “South California” is terrible.  “South California” does have precedent on its side (North and South Carolina, North and South Dakota, and West Virginia).  However, popularly, this half of the state is called Southern California. Of course, it doesn’t include all of the current Southern California, and decidedly includes counties that are popularly referred to as Central California.  Adding to the confusion are the two Mexican states of  Baja California and Baja California Sur (literally, Lower California, and Lower California South.  Maybe the proposed  new state can be renamed “Alta California” in tribute to the former Mexican territory, and later department.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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