Initiative 17-0005: California Autonomy from Federal Government

In 2017, current and former board members Timothy Vollmer, Coyote Marin, and Shankar Singam, along with two other people, submitted an initiative entitled “California’s Future: A Path to Independence.” The initiative outlined a pragmatic, legal approach by which California might become more autonomous or independent. Vollmer and Marin were the initiative’s primary co-authors.

The Attorney General later assigned the initiative the title “California Autonomy from Federal Government.” You can read the ballot summary here.

While the initiative ultimately did not qualify for the ballot, we still recommend you read it for yourself, because it answers two big questions about California independence.

  • Why should California want more autonomy, even if that means becoming an independent country?
  • What would we need to do to get there?

Here is a brief summary of the initiative’s four parts:

The Manifesto (Sections 1 and 2 of the initaitive) explains:

  • how California is essentially a nation in its own right already
  • how most of the problems California encounters with the U.S. can be traced back to a deficit of democracy
  • how although democratizing the U.S. would address some of these issues, this is largely out of Californians’ hands, while seeking more autonomy for California and thinking of ourselves as a nation is not

The Path to Independence (Section 3.1 and Article XXXVI, sections 1 and 2(b) in Section 3.2 of the initiative) makes it legally possible, under the California Constitution, for California to change its relationship with the U.S. (including a Compact of Free Association, or becoming an independent country). This would require consent of Congress.

The Autonomy Engine (the rest of Section 3.2) amends the California Constitution to create a legal framework by which California’s elected officials can work together over time to negotiate moving power from Washington to Sacramento (or to local governments or individuals), and to make California more nation-like.

The Alvarado Commission (Section 4) amends California law to fund a commission in the state government, modeled after the successful Little Hoover Commission, to study everything related to autonomy or independence.