North Colorado secessionist movement origins and plans outlined

Nov 1, 2013

Credit iNews at Rocky Mountain PBS

The North Colorado secessionist movement has been gaining publicity and momentum as ten counties in northeastern Colorado have decided to put the motion to their voters.

Details are being revealed about how such a movement for counties to secede from the state would work, including the steps necessary in the process of secession as well as the economics of a 51st state.

Also, secessionists have a backup plan for rural voters to gain greater clout in a state that is becoming more urban.

According to Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, plans in January include pressing the Colorado general assembly to put the issue of the northern Colorado secession in front of Colorado voters in November of 2014. If the general assembly does not approve it, Conway says a citizen's initiative can also force the issue onto a statewide ballot.

After state approval, the referral also needs approval of both the U.S. House and Senate. Another possible hiccup includes the potentiality that some counties don't agree to join in secession. The U.S. Constitution requires the borders of any new state to be contiguous.

In this conversation from Colorado Public Radio's Colorado Matters, hear more about the urban and rural divide behind the secessionist movement with Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. Conway says what was formerly just an idea gained traction during a June meeting of county commissioners joined by state legislators in which a Boulder County legislator expressed the next year's legislative session would result in efforts to pass even tougher rules on oil and gas.

Speaking on the momentum behind the secessionist movement, Conway says he has seen Colorado go from a state with representatives who understand the history and balance within the state to a concentration of political power associated with two rounds of redistricting.

Conway says the region of eastern Colorado has only one state senator outside of Weld County.  "They feel disenfranchised; they feel like they are the other Colordo."

If northeastern Colorado seceding from the rest of the state seems like an outlandish idea, there is a backup plan, known as the Phillips County Idea, named after one of the two northeasternmost counties in Colorado. This plan involves pushing the state to organize the state senate similar to the U.S. Senate—based on geography, rather than assigned based on equitable population. The U.S. Senate consists of two senators from every state regardless of population. This idea is a legislative priority of Colorado Counties, Inc., an association representing commissioners across the state.

If North Colorado became a state, Colorado would lose roughly half of its oil and gas wells to the new state, as well as most of its prime agricultural land, according to Burt Hubbard, editorial director of the iNews network, an investigative reporting group at Rocky Mountain PBS. He also says Colorado gives more money to rural northeastern Colorado than those areas give back to the state in revenues, which is a different assertion from those of the North Colorado movement.

Hubbard says most of the oil and gas revenues in northeastern Colorado go to the counties rather than to the state of Colorado, therefore Colorado would not be losing the revenue.

Other statistics include that without North Colorado, Colorado would become more Democratic. The 11 counties moving to secede would become the fifth most Republican state in the U.S., giving the state a "lock" on two Republican U.S. senators, according to Hubbard.

Click here to hear the conversation with Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway and Burt Hubbard of iNews from Colorado Matters from Colorado Public Radio and learn more about why North Colorado is important to secessionists and how the facts check out on the economics of such a new state.