A state of debate: Calif. sovereignty plan poses threat to Union

By Eric Vining, Columnist

If you thought talk of state sovereignty was over, the Golden State may make you want to think again.

Louis Marinelli, a candidate for California’s 80th Assembly District, is asking voters to support his unique plan to secure his state’s future – one that will make California a sovereign nation within a nation.

Marinelli and his political action group, YesCalifornia, hope to accomplish this through nine initiatives, which they plan to place on the state’s ballots in November 2016. Together, these initiatives make up what Marinelli calls the “California Sub-National Sovereignty Agreement.” If passed, California would cease to be a U.S. state and would instead be recognized as a sovereign American territory, much like Puerto Rico to the U.S. or Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Such a designation has many perks over statehood. For example, sovereign U.S. territories are not subject to a federal income tax, maintain their own militia and military, and have the power to create trade deals between themselves and foreign nations. Under the terms of the agreement, the California Legislature would become the California Republic’s national legislative body, and California’s governor would become the nation’s first president. The status of California’s state flag would be elevated to the same level as the Texas flag, and would be considered the flag of a foreign nation under the U.S. Flag Code. Californians would even be able to retain their United States citizenship, keep their U.S. passports and would continue to receive federal benefits such as Social Security and Medicare.

Of course, territorial status also has its drawbacks. Like Puerto Rico, California’s citizens would no longer have the power to participate in U.S. congressional and presidential elections. This could prove especially detrimental to the Golden State, whose 53-member Congressional delegation is by far the largest of any U.S. state. Without Californian representation in Washington, Republicans would see a dramatic shift in power to their favor.

Californians would also see a dramatic increase in their state (now federal) taxes. Without federal payouts, California would be responsible for the upkeep of their territory’s roads, highways, bridges and other infrastructure generally covered under federal programs. This could pose an immense problem for the fledging territory’s new government, which would also have to deal with rising unemployment rates, illegal immigration, $428 billion in state-held debt and other issues typically handled by the federal government. It is more likely that California will flounder like the Republic of Texas did in 1845 rather than become economically self-sufficient and prosperous.

Though well-intentioned, Marinelli’s plan poses a major threat to the future stability of the Union. The United States is distinct from many other countries in the world because of its strong emphasis on the power of what the Bill of Rights refers to as the “‘separate states.’”

If Marinelli and YesCalifornia’s initiatives are accepted by Californians, it would set a dangerous precedent of enticing other states. If Texas and California alone gave up their statehood in favor of territorial sovereignty, the U.S. would lose nearly 25 percent of its total GDP, which could negatively affect trade worldwide.

The United States was created as a union of the separate states. America needs a solution that brings her people together, not pull them farther apart from one another.

Eric Vining is a junior political science and journalism dual major from Houston.