51st Colorado State Proposed to Prowers County Commissioners

Jeffrey Hare & Isaac Snyder

Jeffrey Hare & Isaac Snyder

A movement is underway in Colorado to develop a 51st state.  Eleven counties out of the state’s 64 are entertaining the idea of a legal separation from Colorado to develop a state which offers greater rural representation for its residents versus the high population density along the Front Range cities.  The Prowers County Commissioners met this past Thursday, September 12, with Jeffrey Hare, Executive Director of the 51st State Initiative and area resident Isaac Snyder to discuss the steps needed to declare an independent statehood.  Hare was also seeking support of the new state concept through a multi-county initiative.  Those counties who have expressed interest are: Weld, Morgan, Sedgwick, Logan, Phillips, Yuma, Washington, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Lincoln and Elbert. 

Hare stated that there are plenty of obstacles to overcome to establish a new state including the required approval of the state legislature, a state constitutional amendment and U.S. Congressional approval.  As the initiative behind the idea of a new state is the growing divide between the interests of Front Range Cities and rural residents, an alternative is also being considered that would realign representation in the state legislature.  The Phillips County proposal, Hare said, would increase the number of state senators to match the number of current counties, from 35 to 64.  The new model would allow each county only one vote in the senate and would not be based on senate representation through population density.  “There’s the option that instead of a statewide election, the county commissioners could appoint a state senator for representation,” Hare explained.  The idea parallels the current set up in the U.S. Senate with two senators per state.  Another option, which didn’t receive as much discussion, was potential annexation into Wyoming. 

Dick Scott, Kiowa County Commissioner, attended the meeting and said the 51st state proposal probably would not work after a while.  “I think what you’d see is that Greeley would eventually become the new Denver/Boulder situation as they’d still have more people and vote their concerns over the rest of us,” he stated.  Prowers County Commissioner Joe Marble asked Hare about potential legal challenges that might develop regarding PERA, water issues or federal bonding initiatives as well as how state or federal contracts would exist in a new state.  Commissioner Buxton-Andrade inquired about the tax impact that would be made with the loss of the Denver/Boulder area state tax contribution. “How would that effect the smaller communities in their state mandates and financing received from their tax contributions,” she inquired.  Hare said an economic study is being commissioned at the business school at CCU to develop a new state tax framework.  He said the assessed value of the original ten counties interested in a new state is equal to the city/county of Denver.  Under the new state arrangement, Hare said, the state department of education could just be ignored and let local school board determine their curriculum and eliminate federal mandates for testing. 

Hare said a continued plan of educating state residents on the concept is crucial to getting the initiative into play.  He believes the more people understand how this can benefit them; the more will sign up for the resolution.  At present, it simply states that counties choose to participate in the discussion related to the formation of a 51st state.  Commissioner Marble said he’s interested in the resolution, but he and the commissioners, as well as the county attorney want to review the document.  Marble said he’s open to the idea of a public hearing for the community to learn more about the proposal, but members of the initiative would need to be present to explain the intricacies of their plan.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCityCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEducationFeaturedHot TopicsPoliticsProwers County


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