- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2014

The California secession battle is getting real.

Having once dismissed the movement, state labor unions and Democrats are scrambling to snuff the growing 51st state movement in Northern California, campaigning against two county measures that go before voters Tuesday.

The AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, and others are fighting ballot questions in Del Norte and Tehama counties, both named Measure A, that ask voters to support the larger effort to explore breaking away and creating a new state called “Jefferson.”

Unions “have been running continuous radio ads now for a week,” said Aaron Funk, who is running Del Norte County’s pro-Measure A campaign. “They’re spending a lot of money. They’re joined at the hip with Sacramento. They have all sorts of connections with the state government. I’m guessing they’re assuming it wouldn’t be that close in the state of Jefferson.”

The push to stop the 51st state effort comes with the movement in full swing. Supervisors in four counties — Glenn, Modoc, Siskiyou and Yuba — have already voted to endorse the Jefferson Declaration. Two more county boards are scheduled to consider the issue at their meetings next week.

The Jefferson Declaration’s goal is to win back local rule for the state’s sparsely populated northern rural counties, which have seen their economies wither in part under the weight of state and federal environmental regulations.

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“It’s about representation,” said Mr. Funk. “We’re not poor counties — we’ve been impoverished. The state of California has sucked our resources out of us. What remain, they’ve barred us from using. We have absolutely no authority over our lives. We have one state senator for 12 counties. San Francisco has 10. Los Angeles has 20.”

Even so, the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee has come out swinging against Measure A. Critics argue that the proposal is unrealistic and would further impoverish the seceding counties by removing badly needed state funding.

The Del Norte County School Board also opposes Measure A, saying that splitting off would cost the district $32 million in state funding.

“The current proposal provides no guarantee or any means of how we would be receiving those $32 million, which are vitally needed to educate the students in this community,” Don Olson, superintendent of schools, said in the Del Norte Triplicate.

The debate is running parallel to a statewide effort to split California into six states. The proposed initiative, funded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper, is now in the signature-gathering stage in an effort to qualify for the November ballot.

Another source of contention surrounds the state prison in Crescent City. Organizers of Measure A say the state prison guard’s union has sent out mailers warning residents that the prison will close if the county votes to explore splitting from California.

Mr. Funk called the argument “scare tactics,” saying that all contracts would remain valid, just as contracts between two states are now honored. If anything, he said, the prison would become a source of income because only 3 percent of its inmates are locals, meaning the new state could rent out cell space to California.

Mark Baird, a founder of the Jefferson Declaration movement, predicted the Del Norte and Tehama votes would be close, given the well-funded opposition.

“It’s going to be a tough one, but I don’t know, I have a good feeling about it,” said Mr. Baird. “I think that liberty will always find the light of day, and even if it’s only 51 percent, it’s still a win for us. And we have to do something here, or we’re all going to be broke and we’re all going to be gone.”

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