Why the Phillips County Proposal is Flawed
In the past few weeks since the Weld County Commissioners proposed the formation of a new state, several ideas have been suggested by others. The two alternatives that have risen to the top are the Phillips County proposal and requesting annexation into Wyoming.
Investigation as to the Wyoming annexation idea is under way. There are pros and cons to this proposal versus the creation of the 51st State. For now, we’ll set aside the discussion of those pros and cons because we want to discuss the pros and cons of the Phillips County proposal.
Their proposal is – rather than starting a new state - to amend the State Constitution to change the representation model in one of the two chambers – presumably the State Senate. The change would be to have representation determined by location rather than by population similar to the model of the U.S Senate. The idea would be to have each County have its own Senator regardless of population. This would increase the number of Senators from 35 to 64 and would increase the significantly influence the voice of rural Colorado when compared to the current model.
There are three issues we see with the Phillips proposal.
First, the first hurdle would be to amend the state Constitution. With the legislature being controlled by larger metro areas (Denver / Boulder / Colorado Springs / Fort Collins / Pueblo), the likelihood of the legislature referring it to the ballot is low. This would leave the rural areas with collecting signatures as a citizen’s initiative to refer it to the ballot. The same challenge exists with a statewide ballot. Would those that have control at the state level agree to dilute their control of the state legislature? Again, unlikely…
Second, let’s assume we can get it approved on a statewide ballot. There is already a 1964 Supreme Court case Reynolds vs Sims which ruled that states can’t apportion representation in a manner other than by population (one man, one vote). In other words, states can’t have representation apportioned the same as the U.S. Senate. Our next challenge would be to fight a Supreme Court case that has existed for nearly 50 years. We would need a Governor and Attorney General willing to take this case to the Supreme Count – a multi-year battle. Think about what happened in California related to Proposition 8. Even if the voices of the people speak on an issue, there has to be willingness of the State government to defend that vote. As this battle continues… do you think we’ll have a Governor and Attorney General that are willing to fight for the voice of rural Colorado. The longer this goes, the more the urban population grows.
Third, even if we clear both of these two hurdles and win better representation, what we are left with? We will have the ability to block future legislation that is harmful to the rural communities, but with the House still controlled by population, we’ll never be able to overturn the damage that had been done. We know what damage has been done most recently as part of the 2013 legislative cycle. Who knows what will happen in the 2014 legislative session that will damage it even further? Look at the ‘education’ tax initiatives likely to be on this fall’s ballot – a 27% increase on individuals (including those that file LLC schedule C returns) and S Corps – this being on income over $75K; and the marijuana tax. Is Phillips County (and other rural Counties) likely to receive their proportionate share of that which is being taken from their County. Or, will it end up being spent on Denver / Boulder on their pet projects? I think we know the answer to that question.
Both the statehood idea and annexing with WY would allow us to live under a government that much better reflects and respects our values. The Phillips County proposal, at best, stems the tide, but it does not allow the damage to be undone.