Capitol Alert

Remove three Californias plan from the ballot, Supreme Court says

The California Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a plan to divide California into three states will not appear on the November ballot.

The court instructed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to refrain from putting the measure before voters pending further review, “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election...”

The high court took action in response to a lawsuit the environmental nonprofit Planning and Conservation League and political attorneys filed against the measure earlier this month. The opponents alleged that breaking up the state is a “revision” of the state constitution and requires support by two-thirds of the California Legislature before it can go to the 2018 ballot.

“Proposition 9 was a costly, flawed scheme that will waste billions of California taxpayer dollars, create chaos in public services including safeguarding our environment and literally eliminate the State of California – all to satisfy the whims of one billionaire,” said Howard Penn, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, in a statement. “We are thankful for the opportunity to save Californians from having to vote on a billionaire’s folly.”

The ruling Wednesday gives the high court more time to hear oral arguments and weigh the case before rendering an official decision on the legality of the measure. The court could ultimately determine that the measure does not need approval by the Legislature and allow it to move forward on a future ballot.

Tim Draper, a wealthy investor and main proponent of the ballot measure, accused opponents of silencing voters who signed a petition to place the proposal on the November ballot.

“Apparently, the insiders are in cahoots and the establishment doesn’t want to find out how many people don’t like the way California is being governed,” Draper said in a statement on Facebook. “Whether you agree or not with this initiative, this is not the way democracies are supposed to work. This kind of corruption is what happens in third world countries.”

The Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst, in a review of the measure last year, also raised the question of whether state lawmakers need to sign off on the plan. Both the state legislature and the U.S. Congress were required to approve Virginia’s split back in 1863, the last time an American state was divided. The ballot initiative process did not exist in 1863.

Draper attempted to exempt legislative approval with language in the measure that says the people of California “provide the legislative consent for the formation of three new states to Congress as required by the United States Constitution.”

The ruling deals another blow to Draper’s years-long quest to break up the Golden State.

Draper, a 60-year-old venture capitalist, first embarked on an unsuccessful $5 million quest to divide California into six smaller states in 2014.

Thus far, he reported spending another $1.8 million on the three-way split since last year and hired a Brexit strategist to help him. Draper said in state filings that California has been rendered ungovernable due to its population and diverse regional economies, arguing that dividing the state would create a more representative system of government.

Editor’s note: This post was updated on July 18 to reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling.