San Bernardino, the largest county in the U.S., has instructed local officials to study what would be involved in breaking away from California and becoming a separate state. With 2.2 million inhabitants and 20,000 square miles of land, San Bernardino is bigger than several existing states. It is nearly as big as Puerto Rico, which has 3 million residents and 3,515 square miles of land.
Since it is on the border between California, Nevada, and Arizona, it would not be impossible for San Bernardino to take on a separate statehood, even if that would leave California in an odd shape.
San Bernardino claims that California is not providing the county with “its fair share of state and federal resources.”
Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says, “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State 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.”
California’s legislature would therefore have to agree. In fact, given the “junction” of the states, Arizona and Nevada might have to agree as well. Congress would also have to agree to admit the new state.
50.6 per cent of voters approved the plan in November. This is enough of a majority to require the government to look into the matter. There have been 220 previous attempts at secession in California, including the proposed state of Jefferson and Greater Idaho. There have been calls to divide there state into two or three states, and for California to secede and become an independent nation.
The next step is for the county to compare its finances with those of other counties in the state to determine whether it is in fact being shortchanged.
At this point, no-one seems to expect San Bernardino to secede from California.. The midterm vote is seen as an expression of frustration with the current state government, the rising cost of living in California, and increasing poverty in this section of the state.
The 51st state
In contrast, Puerto Rico has just seen the passage of the Puerto Rico Status Act, a bill that gives Puerto Rico voters the choice of statehood or independence with or without free association with the United States.
A similar bill would have to be passed in the Senate and go to the desk of President Biden for signature. President Biden issued a statement supporting the Puerto Rico Status Act, after organizations including the one that sponsors PR51st wrote and asked for such a statement. We are confident that President Biden will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Puerto Rico is well on the way to statehood, unlike San Bernardino.
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