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CedeI guess California is planning to secede from the United States after all. At least if the California Legislature has any say in the matter. They’re just not going to admit that’s what they’re doing. Or voluntarily walk away from the benefits California collects from the federal government, and wants to continue collecting.

California lost the election. Hillary didn’t win. Donald did. California just doesn’t want to accept it. It wants to conduct itself as if it won.

Preparing for an adversarial relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, and underscoring the extent to which the action in Sacramento in the coming months will be shaped by Trump’s presidency, the California Legislature has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the first U.S. Attorney General appointed as such by President Barack Obama, to serve as outside legal counsel to advise on California’s legal strategy against the incoming administration.

Under the attorney-client engagement agreement, Holder will lead a team of attorneys from the law firm Covington & Burling in addressing potential conflicts between California and the federal government. Former Los Angeles Congressman Howard Berman, also a Democrat and now a senior advisor to the Covington & Burlington firm will also be part of the effort.

State Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles and State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) began contemplating the hiring of outside legal counsel for the California Legislature immediately following Trump’s election in the hopes of protecting existing state policies at odds with Trump’s stated positions, including “protecting” people in the country illegally, protecting the healthcare coverage of insureds under Obamacare and addressing other matters of divergence between the federal government and California, including in particular climate change issues.

“[Holder] will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,” said Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). “The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the governor and the attorney general to protect Californians,” Rendon added.

The two legislative leaders have taken an unabashedly combative posture against Trump in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. Rendon, in remarks last month at a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected California lawmakers, described the incoming administration as a “major existential threat” (I hope you know what means because I don’t and I doubt that Rendon does either) and asserted “Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.” Really? And this is one of our elected state officials?

Such “fighting” typically falls to the state attorney general under the auspices of the governor. Neither Governor Jerry Brown nor Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra, nominated by Brown to succeed former Attorney General and Democrat Kamala Harris, recently elected to the U.S. Senate, have commented on Holder’s hiring. Becerra’s nomination is expected to be easily confirmed. Nor has the incoming Trump administration commented on the matter.

Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley dismissed the hiring as a stunt. “This is a distraction from the very real problems facing everyday Californians. Donald Trump did not cause California’s transportation crisis, nor did he play a role in our state’s sky-high housing costs. Democrats should focus on solving these real-world problems instead of wasting taxpayer money to score political points before the president-elect even takes office” Mayes said in a statement. He added that “the state’s incoming attorney general has spent decades in Washington working on federal policies. It’s not clear why legislative Democrats needed to hire a DC insider to litigate the exact same issues.”

Do you find this at all troubling? I do.

Don’t these folks know lawyers are expensive? Oh, that’s right, they’re not spending their money. Their spending yours and mine on this. Our California tax dollars. To the tune of what will easily grow to be millions and millions of dollars ultimately benefitting no one but Holder and his band of merry thieves milking us one and all. And what if we don’t want our tax dollars spent that way? Answer: We can (and someone probably will) sue our state government to stop using our tax dollars without authorization just like our state government is apparently planning to do, spend your and my money suing the federal government when it disagrees with how the federal government is running . . . the federal government, whether or not we want our California Legislature doing that.

We’ve just elected our president. I didn’t vote for him (or Hillary), but he is our president, for better or worse. We also have a federal government. In case the California Legislature missed it, California isn’t either one of those, the U.S. President or the U.S. Legislature.

Maybe it also missed the fact that we have a federal constitution, one that contains a supremacy clause that preempts states from butting into federal matters, meaning matters that the federal government has reserved unto itself to handle. Exclusively. If that were not so, then what would happen when Texas has a different opinion than California?

There are a few matters that the U.S. Constitution reserves to states, but those are few and far between and they generally pertain to local matters. So California can decide California matters and Texas can decide Texas matters, but neither one of them can decide federal matters. For example, immigration policy is not a state right. California simply doesn’t get to tell the federal government what federal immigration policy will be. It can say what it would like the federal immigration policy to be, but not what it will be. And it doesn’t need to hire a battery of outside lawyers to do that. If the California Legislature doesn’t like what the federal government decides (it hasn’t even decided yet, but the California Legislature has already hired its lawyers), it can urge its constituents to vote in the next federal election to change things.

Beyond that, California shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. It shouldn’t be able to refuse to follow federal law, but expect to continue drinking at the federal trough. If it really doesn’t want to play by the federal rules, then it should leave the Union, secede, get out, as some members of the California Legislature have been threatening to do, i.e., urging California to do (the California Legislature doesn’t get to decide that question either).

And if it California does secede, then those Californians who don’t like what they end up with, a system that can’t likely survive on its own, will need to think about doing the same, leaving California, or whatever California may choose to call itself after it leaves the U.S. In the meanwhile, the California Legislature should stop wasting our hard earned money on matters not within their domain and should instead do their job, solving our local traffic problems, improving our under-performing public education system, and addressing other local matters such as those. The things we elected and pay them to do.


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