Now tallying 21 counties among their ranks, supporters of the movement to carve an independent “State of Jefferson” out of Northern California plan to introduce a bill this session seeking sovereignty.
Organizers on Wednesday turned in declarations for 15 counties, including Sutter, Placer, Nevada and El Dorado, asking the state to grant them permission to separate. Six others petitions – which were either passed by the county boards of supervisors or reflect signature-gathering drives – have already been filed.
Jefferson proponents contend that their rural areas lack adequate representation in state government, which has led to over-regulation and environmental policies that decimated their regional economies, particularly the logging and mining industries that historically supported them. Their seal bears an XX, signifying that they have been double-crossed by state government.
At a rally on the steps of the Capitol to celebrate the “declaration day,” Mark Baird, a retired pilot from Siskiyou County who has led the Jefferson movement, called it “systematic persecution” and promised to “start a straight-up fight with the people in that building” to win their independence.
“We live in a state led by liars,” he said. “They have no empathy for what it takes to live our lives.”
More than 200 people turned out on a cold and rainy day for the event, which featured a performance of an original song about the “Jefferson state of mind” and the announcement of a gun raffle for those who registered their support online. Speakers railed against government interference.
“The government was not instituted to keep you safe from bad baby carriages and raw milk. It was instituted to protect liberty,” said Baird, who also compared Gov. Jerry Brown’s affinity for the “coercive power of the central state” to Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.
Baird said he expected lawmakers to ignore the bill, in which case Jefferson supporters plan to sue the state. They do not yet have an author committed to carrying the legislation, but Baird hopes it will be Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, who attended a Jefferson rally at the Capitol last year.
In a statement, Gallagher said, "I sympathize with their frustrations, but this is not part of my legislative package."
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 4:02 p.m. with Gallagher’s comment.