State split would be overseen by transition committees…
Spokane Valley Representatives Bob McCaslin and Matt Shea (who is the leader of the 51st state movement) have submitted House Bill 1509 which would create the new state of Liberty out of eastern Washington. The two lawmakers proposed a similar proposal in 2016 and 2017.
The idea is nothing new as splitting the state was suggested by lawmakers in 1915, 1985, 1991, 2005 and 2015 as well. These proposals never got far and other than getting some headlines the last two proposals did not gain much traction with lawmakers.
The bill’s text proposes transition committees for various policy areas including government functions, infrastructure, debt, elections, transportation, education, natural resources, labor, agriculture and more. Each committee would be comprised of four state legislators and one expert, consultant, or other support staff.
The edge of Liberty’s western edge would follow the crest of the Cascade mountains. The Liberty state movement’s website has said a state constitution is in the works and has done so for over a year.
The Shea and Caslin sponsored bill was first read by the State Government & Tribal Relations committee.
In order for Liberty to become a reality, the proposal would have to be approved by Washington lawmakers and then the United States Congress. This sort of conduct is laid out by the US. Constitution as it reads:
“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.”
Stevens County 51st State Captain Rene Holaday in a prior interview with The Independent said that the economy of Liberty would closely resemble that of Idaho. In terms of population, the new state would be estimated at 1.5 million people, which would make it more populated than 10 other states, and Washington, D.C. It would be just a hair under Idaho’s population of 1.6 million people.
A new state constitution is being drafted in the same process that the U.S. Constitution was drafted, Holaday said. Taking the original Washington State Constitution along with the U.S. Constitution, members of the Liberty State Movement drafting committee already have one draft and are working on one to show to local Liberty State officers to be voted on. The final step would be for the people of Liberty State to vote on the final draft of the new state constitution.
SUPPORT IN STEVENS COUNTY
Stevens County appears to have a hotbed of support for the movement. When Shea held a gathering to explain the State of Liberty in 2017 at the NE Washington AG Center, it drew hundreds and raised over $5,000. While supports and organizers stay they’re still trying to get the word out, the movement hasn’t been without its detractors and critics either.
There have been other 51st state events in other counties but none to the size that Stevens County had initially. A recent volunteers meeting for the movement in Stevens County saw about 20 people.
Holaday cited two KXLY polls on Facebook that showed 73 and 75 percent support to the state splitting in two and the creation of Liberty, Holaday said that the movement has popular support and they’ve had many volunteers come to them asking what they can do. Over 200 Liberty flags have been sold to people as well.
However, critics have questioned the economic viability of the eastern part of the state (which gets more taxes from the state government than it pays into), point to Shea’s personal beliefs and deride it as a movement to make it a Christian state. They also questioned how the landlocked state would compete without the big company tax support from Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft and other corporate titans located in the western part of the state. They’ve also questioned the validity of the Facebook poll… since it’s not a scientific poll or representative of eastern Washington’s feelings as a whole.
When asked about criticisms concerned Liberty being a Christian State by the Independent in 2017, Holaday called these critical statements false while pointing to Facebook polls as groundswell support.
The Liberty State Facebook Page has over 1,900 followers while the private group “JOIN THE MOVEMENT FOR THE 51ST STATE” has about 3,251 which is up slightly from 3,194 members from June 22, 2018.
In this time, Holaday also ran for Stevens County Commissioner but was eliminated in the primary. During this same election, a sheriff’s candidate also caught some criticism during the election for speaking at the 51st state movement event in 2017.
During the 2018 election, several local representatives were asked about their support of the 51st state during a candidate’s forum.
State senator Shelly Short, a Republican, mentioned that former State Senator Bob Morton had a state splitting proposal but it was a different type of proposal. While not actively saying she supported the 51st state, she said that people shouldn’t be afraid to look at alternative forms of representation.
“We should have the discussion,” she said, saying what needs to be looked at is the financial situation. “I’m not going to say I’m completely opposed when it comes to representation, Eastern Washington has been frustrated because of it.”
Short said lots of people living 50 miles from the Space Needle make a lot of decisions but that doesn’t mean the east side can’t build relationships and work together with the west side.
“But we shouldn’t fear talking [about the 51st state.]” she said.
Stevens County Commissioner Don Dashiell, a Republican, said that while the commissioners did receive a presentation about the 51st state, there was some reporting errors in local newspapers about the commissioners being all lathered up and leading the charge of the 51st state.
“We have plenty of other things to do and other avenues to carry out the will of the people,” he said, adding he would not expend his energy on such a movement but would continue to observe it.