The “Three States Initiative,” proposed to divide California into three parts, failed Wednesday after the state Supreme Court took it off the ballot.
The proposal, pushed by tech billionaire Tim Draper, sought to divide the state as it is into “Northern California,” “Southern California” and “California,” according to its official website, cal3.com. If it’d succeeded, the Santa Clarita Valley would’ve been included in “California” and elected new state officials and different tax rates.
Draper’s proposal got enough signatures to briefly be approved for the November ballot, until the Planning and Conservation League, a nonprofit environmental group in California, filed a lawsuit that ultimately blocked the measure from getting to a vote.
Santa Clarita City Councilman Cameron Smyth, a former Assembly member, was skeptical that the proposal would have done California any good. However, the underlying desire to split California up pointed to constituent sentiments in the state, he said.
“I think the fact that the proposal was able to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, does signify the frustration that people throughout the state feel with the way California is going,” he said. “With things happening in California like increasing the gas tax and the income tax, regulations, rising housing costs, businesses leaving the state — I think there is frustration with the leadership in Sacramento, and voters saw that as a way to express that frustration.”
Phil Gussin, a political science professor at College of the Canyons, was skeptical of the proposition, citing claims the measure made it onto the ballot Draper paid signers $3 a signature.
“Some propositions make it on the ballot by virtue of legislators voting in favor of it but requires the approval of the voters to become law,” Gussin said. “Other propositions make it on the ballot because proponents are able to get enough signatures for it to be included on the ballot. As I understand it, this proposition made it on the ballot because a wealthy person who would personally benefit from the break-up of California paid people to gather enough signatures to qualify.”
Smyth wasn’t convinced the measure would have been feasible had it made it past the November ballot, he said. However, he thought it might have stood a chance at passing.
“The court removed it — it didn’t fail,” he said. “That’s a big difference. I’m not convinced it wouldn’t have passed, and I think if its opponents didn’t think it had a chance of passing, they wouldn’t have brought it to the court.”
Draper, a wealthy venture capitalist, had argued California is too large to be governed effectively and needed “better decision making and real solutions closer to home,” according to the proposal’s website.
“Meaningful improvement has proven impossible through the Sacramento system of top-down control,” the site said. “This isn’t about politics — this is about sustainable solutions to intractable issues that impact Californians every day — like our local schools, infrastructure and government responsiveness.”
The state Supreme Court wrote that “significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity” and “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 court asked Draper to respond with his defense of his measure, leaving open the possibility that his initiative could come back for another ballot.
“This lawsuit is just another example of how Sacramento politicians, powerful unions and their high-priced lobbyists are trying to hold onto power at the expense of California voters,” Draper’s group, Citizens for Cal 3 said.
“I personally continually grow wary of Sacramento’s efforts to take control away from local agencies,” Smyth said. “Whether it be cities, counties, water districts or school districts — at some point, we as local agencies do need to stand up and say enough is enough.”