In the news is a bill sponsored by three Illinois Republican legislators to have Chicago separated from the rest of the state of Illinois? Holy cow, is that legally possible?
Holy cow, it sure is.
Believe it or not, the framers of the U.S. Constitution provided for such in Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1. Article IV states that a new state may be formed within an existing state or between two or more adjoining states with the consent of the legislature of the states concerned as well as the U.S. Congress.
Since the nation's creation, hundreds of bills have been submitted in at least 31 states seeking separation from an existing state. California leads all states with the most attempts at creating separate states within it — over 200 bills or petitions having been submitted, many seeking to fragment the Golden Bear state into several cubs.
Only three times have new states been created from an existing state under Article IV.
In 1792, Kentucky was established out of the then-western regions of Virginia.
In 1820, Maine was devised from the territory that had been part of Massachusetts.
During the Civil War, West Virginia was created out of the state of Virginia. In 1861, the Virginia government was then in armed rebellion against the U.S. government. Several counties in the northwest part of Virginia wanted to secede from the seceding Virginia and formed a new, "reconstituted" Virginia legislature authorizing a new state.
Congress and Lincoln agreed, provided West Virginia became a nonslave state. With the assistance of the Union Army occupying the region, the new state did just that.
Historians and legal scholars have since questioned the legality/constitutionality of West Virginia's creation. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled West Virginia's creation was valid, however.
The Article IV provision is a tad vague on how the "consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as the Congress" is achieved.
Illinois' Constitution does not have a specific provision for the process of the creation of a state-within-the-state. Conventional legislative bill passage is the presumed way to do it. A bill would be approved by majorities in both houses (the House of Representatives and the Senate) and signed by the governor.
If vetoed by the governor, the veto must be overridden by three-fifth majorities in each house. If the governor does not sign or veto a bill within 60 days after presentment, it automatically becomes law. The U.S. government then must consent likewise.
Since the Democratic Party now controls both Illinois houses plus the governor's mansion, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives, making Chicago a separate state has as much chance as there might be of snow flying in Lucifer's linen closet.
But with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 coming up, one can always dust off the iconic phrase for accomplishing things: "If we can land a man on the moon then we should be able to ..."
But then, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn't find snow on the lunar surface either.
There is ice on the moon's poles, though. And the deep freeze is where this separation bill is likely to go.
Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.