Lawsuit: Californians Need More Representation, Not More Taxation

Instead of splitting the state into six parts, lawsuit proposes increasing number of state lawmakers to give voice to rural residents of the state.


Andre Jenny Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom

In the autumn of 1774, with rumblings of revolt echoing through the 13 colonies, a group of men met in Philadelphia to propose a response to what many saw as an overbearing, unresponsive legislature in a distant land.

Among the ideas debated by that First Continental Congress, Pennsylvania delegate Joseph Galloway proposed creating an American parliament of delegates elected by the states that would have increased the political representation of the colonies without severing ties with England.

The Continental Congress rejected Galloway's idea. Other proposal approved by the Congress did not succeed in changing Brittish policy towards the colonies, and ultimately paved the way for the more famous meeting of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia during the summer of 1776. When in the course of human events, and so on.

Perhaps it's the proximity to Independence Day, but I couldn't help but think of Galloway's proposal when I read The New York Times' account of a lawsuit launched by a group of California activists who say their voices are not being heard by the state government in Sacramento.

With ongoing rumblings about potentially splitting California into multiple states (perhaps as many as six of them), the lawsuit—plaintiffs include several northern California towns, residents of those places, and a Native American tribe—seems like an attempt to forestall a radical redrawing of the map and increasing the number of legislative seats in order to give disenfranchised rural Californians a greater say in their government.

There needs to be greater representation in matters of taxation, the plaintiffs say—a sentiment that Galloway, Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, and the rest would recognize.

"I wake up in the morning and think, 'What is California going to do to me today?'" Mark Baird, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told the Times. "The majority should never be able to deprive the minority of their inalienable rights."

The lawsuit calls for increasing the number of seats from the current 120, but doesn't say how many seats there should be. The current 80 seats in the state Assembly and 40 in the state Senate were set back in the 1860s and never increased, even as the state's population boomed during the 20th Century.

I don't know that there is an optimal level of representation in state government. In fact it seems no one does since some states periodically consider the idea of shrinking their legislature. But there's no doubt California is an outlier.

With more than 978,000 people per state senator and more than 489,000 people per state representative, California is far and away the state with the largest ratio of people per representative. Texas is second, with one state representative for every 183,000 people. (Tiny New Hampshire is the most representative with one state lawmaker per 3,300 people) There are more Californians in the U.S. House of Representatives (53) than in the state Senate (40).

It's not exactly taxation without represetation, but you can understand why some parts of California feel ignored and want to break away from the rest of the state.

As the Times put it:

California's Great Red North is…a vast, rural, mountainous tract of pine forests with a political ethos that bears more resemblance to Texas than to Los Angeles. Two-thirds of the north is white, the population is shrinking and the region struggles economically, with median household incomes at $45,000, less than half that of San Francisco.

In the same state that is developing self-driving cars, there's the rugged landscape of Trinity County, where a large share of residents heat their homes with wood, plaques commemorate stagecoach routes and the county seat, Weaverville, is an old gold-mining town with a lone blinking stop-and-go traffic light.

Even if you think the idea of splitting California into multiple states is farfetched and political impossible (surely the people of 1770s London thought the idea of an independent American colony unlikely), Baird's complaint about minoirty rights is worth considering. Giving greater representation to rural parts of the state might help steer California back from the edge of political insanity.

If you're a resident of Colusa County, where the unemployment rate is currently 12.4 percent, and you're following what's happened in Seattle, San Diego, and elsewhere in the wake of minimum wage hikes, you have good reason to be concerned, scared, even, about what California's soon-to-be-implemented $15 per hour minimum wage will do. State lawmakers in Sacramento seem to forget that they are writing laws for every part of the state, not just the rich liberal enclaves stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge down the coast to the Hollywood Hills.

And it's not just the minimum wage. A recent 12-cent hike in the state's gasoline tax will disproportionately hurt rural residents who drive further to work, have fewer mass transit options, and tend to have older, less fuel efficient cars.

Environmental regulations make hunting and fishing more difficult and add to the cost of industrial jobs like logging and mining.

Like the other Founding Fathers whose names are more familiar to us today, Joseph Galloway might have something to teach us about the current political crises facing our nation. More representation—giving voice to those who feel voiceless in matters of taxation—isn't a cure for all political ills, but in California's case it might prevent an ugly breakup.

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  1. Just make Jerry Brown Governor for life. What could possibly go wrong?

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  2. And whatever representatives are added will simply be outvoted because even more representatives will be added in the same urban centers that already ignore inland communities.

    1. ^ This x1000

    2. I had a similar thought. However, I think the key is more senators which would reduce the chance for super majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

  3. that wouldn’t help, they would still be drowned out by the neo-marxists in the bay area and LA. they need their own state.

    I live in san jose but feel so bad for these people when I drive through the inland. They are completely getting fucked over and there’s nothing they can do about it

    1. The splitting into 2 or 4 or 6 states thing isn’t going to work. Unless they can keep the resulting blue states exactly one more than the red states, the Senate is going to go out of balance. 3 states might work.

      Or we can wait for CA to secede and do the West Virginia thing with the inland counties.

  4. I’ve read similar critiques of the US House of Representatives: it hasn’t been enlarged in a long time, and if it were, would supposedly increase representation.
    I have a better plan, though. The Constitution doesn’t require 9 some court justices; it’s silent on the number. So let’s just have one supreme Court Justice, and make it Ron Paul.

    1. I’ve read similar critiques of the US House of Representatives: it hasn’t been enlarged in a long time, and if it were, would supposedly increase representation.

      I’ve heard that too, but the overwhelming factor in the HOR not being representative is gerrymandering. We need to deal with that first.

      1. Gerrymandering is mostly the consequence of incumbents trying to keep their seats when the total number of seats isn’t growing. You aren’t going to eliminate the desire of incumbents to hang on. So why try. Just add more seats in line with population growth so district size (our representation) remains constant. They won’t need to gerrymander. There is also however a direct correlation (and causation imo) between district size and re-election rate. So there is zero chance of fixing gerrymandering directly. As long as the legislature size is fixed, gerrymandering is inevitable and can only get worse as ‘incumbency’ can become an easy career just by drawing lines.

        As for the value of a bigger House – presents the arguments well. Personally I think 100,000 per district is probably OK for the US House – and states should be 60,000 max district size in a state assembly. This would be a very good issue for Libertarians.

      2. It is an either-or problem.
        On the one hand, there is the problem of whether your representative really represents you.
        On the other hand, there is the problem that too large a body of representatives can’t function. So you get Leon Trotsky’s remark about the Central Committee usurping the power of the Party Congress, the Politburo usurping the power of the Central Committee, and so forth. Quoted in: Isaac Deutscher, _The Prophet Armed_, ch 3, 1963.

        The better idea was mentioned first. Break the state of California into smaller pieces. For that matter, breaking the USA into smaller pieces also has its good points. Private persons and organizations do this all the time.

        On Gerrymandering, we have geographic districts because geography mattered once upon a time. Now-a-days party seems to matter more, and maybe we should try something more like proportional representation…

  5. As a conservative/libertarian in Los Angeles, I am not represented at all in this state. Anyone with similar views living in a urban area can give up on having any influence. However, the current jungle primary system pretty much guarantees not having any choice for statewide offices. The last Senate race came down to a choice of keeping Kamela Harris as AG so she could do more damage here or send her to Washington where she might be buried in the minority. There were no non-Democrats on the statewide ballot.

    1. You at least have a vote in the primary. And get outvoted, and expected to get outvoted.
      Supposedly that is ‘better’ than the old system where you had no vote in the primary-that-counted (the Democrat primary) and then in the general election the other voters outvoted you and elected the Democrat.
      — John Galt discussed the problem in ‘Atlas Shrugged’.

  6. A favorable decision from the court will have to ignore the Supreme Court decision,
    Reynolds v. Sims (1964)…..7/533.html

    This decision from the Supreme Court dictated that all state legislators should be elected based on population districts rather than geographical districts. Prior to that decision, most state senators were elected based on counties. But the SCOTUS decided it had the jurisdiction to tell states how to elect their legislators.

    Loss of Representation for Rural America…..esentment/

  7. Certainly wouldn’t mind cutting my Rep Doug LaMalfa’s district in half. He’s a rice farmer who represents a massive area from above Redding to Grass Valley, California… That’s a 3 1/2 hour drive… And he most certainly does not represent people in my County!

  8. With the dramatically positive results of the last Presidential election who could possibly fault the idea of giving more political power to rural voters. After all, they are better educated, more intelligent and more discerning than urban voters.

  9. 070517, ca vote article in Reason? Of course none of the Ameri’Kan Politi’Kal Klass or their ministry of propaganda Toadies in California are suggesting doing what must be done to have meaningful elections.

    1. each county, in a regular election year, the Citizens will elect 1 state senator, by popular vote + 3, in each county.
    this would be more effective with 1/2 elected every 2 years when there are four year terms for state senator.

    2. stop gerrymandering the state house, and the state’s US house districts.

    3. all state executive, Judicial, and state wide elective offices require the election winner to win a majority of Citizen votes + 3, in a majority of counties + 3.

  10. 4. all state wide appointed offices require, in a regular election, a majority of the Citizen voters + 3, in a majority of counties +3, to affirm the appointment.

    Interim : temporary appointees may not run for or be appointed to any state office for the next 3 consecutive years following the year they are, or be, should be replaced by a regular election.

    Apply this affirmation to all state : US pardons, commutations, clemency, the like [weasrr]. or it fails.

    Apply this affirmation to agreements – treaties – declarations of War : Presidential interventions : uses of force not imminent peril : self defense : surprise attack. [weasrr] or ti fails.

    Apply this affirmation to all state : US impeachments. [weasrr]. or it fails.

    Apply this affirmation to all state : US prosecutorial deals : agreements that, by a Grand Jury affirmative determination, in any county, in any state; or any county in any state or territory of the United States requests submission to the regular county election affirmation process [weasrr].

  11. 5. all federal executive elective offices should, in a regular election, require a majority of the Citizen voters in a county + 3, in a majority of counties +3, to win the election [weasrr].

    Whatever you call the head of the State police, the county sheriff, the municipal head of the police department, those offices must be got by the majority citizen vote in a majority county election process. [weasrr].
    It might be wise to extend the Citizen majority county affirmation factor to include the Head of the : FBI, US Marshals, NSA, IRS, INS; probably US speaker of the House and Chairman of the Us Senate. And maybe, each member of the cabinet… have a regular election, Citizen, county majority deliver a no confidence vote which would require such appointed persons to resign. And not work for any government – prime contractor Domestic or foreign for 5 years.

    support this with a mandatory stand bookkeeping policy for all governments, backed up with a mandatory alternative budget system, and a collectivists free speech enforcement tax act.

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  14. A favorable decision from the court will have to ignore the Supreme Court decision,

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  15. And whatever representatives are added will simply be outvoted because even more representatives will be added in the same urban centers that already ignore inland communities.

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