AKRON, Colo. (CBS4) – There’s a growing effort to create a 51st state out of parts of northeast Colorado.
Ten counties, including Weld and Morgan, started talking about seceding last month. Now some people Lincoln and Cheyenne counties say they want to join a new state they’d call “North Colorado.”
Organizers of the secession effort say their interests are not being represented at the state Capitol. Representatives from the 10 counties held a meeting on Monday in the town of Akron in Washington County to begin mapping the boundaries for the new state they say will represent the interests of rural Colorado.
The secessionist movement is the result of a growing urban-rural divide, which was exacerbated after this year’s legislation session where lawmakers raised renewable energy standards for rural electric co-ops, floated bills increasing regulations on oil and gas, and passed sweeping gun control.
The creation of a new state comes with risks. A new state would have to draw up new water agreements which are critical to agriculture and agriculture uses 85 percent of Colorado’s water. Supporters say it also comes with new opportunities.
“I say 80 percent of the oil and gas revenue in the state of Colorado is coming out of northeastern Colorado – Weld, Yuma County, and some of other counties,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said. “Seventy percent of the K-12 funding is coming off the state lands in Weld County alone. I’m telling you we are economic drivers.”
But not everyone is in favor of the plan.
“I don’t want be in a 51st state. I don’t want any part of their fracking that they’re doing in Weld County,” Washington County resident Steve Frey said.
County commissioners also discussed a backup plan should breaking away from the state not prove feasible. It involves changing the makeup of the state Senate. Rather than the current 35 Senate districts, each of the 64 counties would have its own senator.
“We need to figure out a way to re-enfranchise the people who feel politically disenfranchised now and ignored,” Conway said.
None of it will be easy. To change the Senate takes a ballot initiative. To form a new state, approval is needed from not only voters but the Colorado General Assembly and U.S. Congress.
In addition, organizers say three other Colorado counties and two in Kansas have said they may join the secession movement. They hope to put the idea to voters as early as this November.
West Virginia was the last state to have been successfully created from parts of an already existing state in 1863 when it seceded from Virginia. Prior to that three other states were created from an existing state. They are as follows:
– Maine (from Massachusetts),
– Kentucky (from Virginia)
– Vermont (from New York and New Hampshire)