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New York lawmaker proposes chopping state into 3 self-governing regions

The Statue of Liberty stands in New York harbor with the New York City skyline in the background.
The Statue of Liberty stands in New York harbor with the New York City skyline in the background. AP

A state lawmaker from upstate New York has proposed splitting the state into three self-governing regions, while still remaining one state.

Republican Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora introduced the bill last month to “finally unshackle the regions of New York that are subjected to decisions and rule from New York City,” according to a news release. The proposal would amend the state’s constitution to set up one autonomous region for New York City’s five boroughs, a second for the rest of Long Island and suburban Rockland and Westchester counties, and then a third region for all of upstate New York.

“It’s time to let people go their own way,” DiPietro said in a statement. “Upstate New Yorkers and Long Islanders have long been subjected to the whim of New York City politicians who don’t understand our way of life.”

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds said the fact that New York would remain a single state under the legislation means that — unlike most other state-splitting ideas — this one wouldn’t need federal approval to move forward because it doesn’t involve secession, the New York Post reports.

“It’s a clever solution,” Reynolds said, according to the Post. “Having three states in one solves a lot of these problems.”

The New York proposal would give each region its own governor, court system and legislature — but there would still be a state governor, as well as federal elected officials spread across the whole state. The bill would limit the number of U.S. congressional districts that cross regional borders to three, according to the text of the legislation.

Similar proposals have been floated in California and Illinois. California’s Supreme Court removed a proposal to break the Golden State in three last year before it could appear on the ballot, the Sacramento Bee reported, while Illinois lawmakers introduced legislation this year asking Congress to make Chicago its own state. Some have even proposed a “Calexit” in which California would secede from the United States entirely, McClatchy reported in 2017.

This video describes a proposal to allow California to split from the United States.

DiPietro said in a statement about the New York proposal that “we deserve to govern ourselves as is our God-given right. Split the state, the people deserve and demand it.”

Earlier this year, another Republican in New York’s legislature introduced a bill to study the idea of splitting the state into two.

“Many are asking whether both regions would be better off as separate entities,” Republican state Sen. Daphne Jordan said in a statement. “My legislation would address this by creating a working group that would study — and I emphasize study — the short- and long-term economic ramifications, including economic opportunities, of splitting the state.”

John Bergener, chair of the Divide NYS Caucus that helped create the plan DiPietro introduced, said the idea is “finally getting traction,” according to The Washington Times.

But an adviser to New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed Republicans’ state-splitting ideas, The Times reports.

“It’s the sort of divisive, unserious and sad pandering that was easy pickings for (Comedy Central’s) ‘The Daily Show,’” senior adviser Rich Azzopardi wrote in an email, according to The Times — an apparent reference to a 2009 segment in which comedian Samantha Bee interviews a lawmaker and others who want Long Island to break off and become its own state.

DiPietro said upstate New York would be “redder than Texas” if it became its own entity, WIVB reports.

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