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Calls for California secession are unrealistic, but wary progressives in the country's most populous state have an alternative: insulation.
There’s been some talk about California seceding from the union because Donald Trump will be president, but here’s what is more likely: insulation.
Before the presidential race was even called Tuesday night, state Sen. Marty Block talked about efforts to insulate California from a Trump presidency. That would mean passing state laws and policies that advance the causes Democratic voters fear Trump will abandon and oppose at a national level.
“There will, I’m sure, be moves to try to fund ourselves or guarantee federal funding in a way that we become less dependent on the whims of the executive branch,” Block, a San Diego Democrat, said during an interview.
Block won’t be a senator much longer – his term is up shortly after Thanksgiving – but his thinking matches that of state legislative leaders who will be around longer. On Wednesday, leaders of the Democrat-controlled state Assembly and state Senate put out a statement in English and Spanish that said the state would “defend its people and our progress” from Trump.
“We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal,” Senate Pro Tem Kevin DeLeon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in the statement.
This is a familiar strategy. For instance, when the the federal government wouldn’t pass legislation to fight climate change, California passed a cap-and-trade law and passed a law to decrease vehicle emissions.
This strategy isn’t just for Democratic states when a Republican is in the White House. Texas also talked about secession when President Obama was reelected, but instead settled for filing about 50 lawsuits against the federal government. Arizona tried to strengthen its immigration laws, though the Supreme Court intervened.
Jessica Bulman-Pozen, a professor at Columbia Law School who studies the interaction of states and the federal government, said there are plenty of things California could do to protect the environment, enhance financial regulations and provide expansive access to health insurance – even if the Trump administration rolls back the Obama administration laws that do so now.
But Bulman-Pozen cautioned that a Trump administration could also pass laws that preempt the state from taking certain measures to insulate itself, since federal law literally trumps state law. That would fly in the face of Republican advocacy for “state’s rights,” but would ensure the new president’s agenda isn’t undermined by the nation’s most populous state.
Ironically, the Supreme Court kept Arizona from enforcing its harsher immigration law because the court ruled states should not be able to undermine federal immigration policies.
“What the court says in that case is not going to provide any solace for the state,” Bulman-Pozen said.
That means if California wanted to protect immigrants from laws that would expel them, its options could be limited.
CALMatters explored this week how other state priorities could be at risk from Trump’s presidency.
Block announced a more local initiative this week too: expand San Diego State University into Mission Valley.
Measure C, which would have let the Chargers vacate Qualcomm Stadium and into a new downtown facility failed. So too did Measure D, which would have made it easier for the city to sell the land under the stadium to SDSU for an expansion.
Block, who used to teach at State, still thinks that’s a good idea, though.
“You got caught up in this C and D thing and it all kind of got merged into this keeping-the-Chargers thing,” he said.
He said it’s time to figure out how to make that land available for an SDSU expansion. He said the expansion could also include new student and faculty housing, a smaller stadium suitable for the college football team and a new professional soccer team, a park along the San Diego river and space for biotech companies.
Block intends to bring the idea, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, to the state Senate Budget Committee and leadership at the California State University system.
Environmental attorney Cory Briggs, who wrote and proposed Measure D, appeared with Block at a press conference announcing the plan yesterday.
• When California’s newly elected legislators are sworn in next month, women will hold just 27 of 120 seats – four fewer than are in the legislature today. (CALMatters)
• Sick of the 2016 election? Good news: the 2018 election has begun. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is running to be the state’s next governor. (Los Angeles Times)
• After winning his bid to head to the Assembly, Todd Gloria had a message for president Trump: California will stay progressive. Meanwhile, on his way out of the Assembly, Brian Jones had a message for voters: gridlock is good. (Times of San Diego)