Don't read too much into Western Maryland's talk about bolting to West Virginia

You may have been surprised to learn today that the legislative delegations of Allegany, Garrett, and Washington Counties today wrote to the legislative leadership of the West Virginia Legislature asking to join the Mountaineer State.

This is kind of the spiritual successor to the Western Maryland Secession movement that sprung up in 2013 and faded after the election of Governor Larry Hogan the following year.

Here is a crude representation what the new state would look like.

I was tipped off last month that this type of effort was going to get started, and that players on both sides of the border were trying to make this idea work.

Delegate Mike McKay told the Baltimore Sun about the plan:

McKay said the idea of swapping the western counties from Maryland to West Virginia has been tossed around before, and lawmakers for the region thought now was a good time to start exploring the issue. If it turns out that their constituents don’t want it — or if West Virginia isn’t interested — then the matter would be put to bed.

“We’re answering the call of some of our constituents who have been requesting this for many years,” he said.

You can read between the lines there and realize that the legislators who sent the letters aren’t all that enthused by the idea and are just representing their constituents there.

So yes, this is little more than a political stunt. But like some other political stunts, it’s a political stunt with a purpose. Western Maryland is virtually forgotten by the Democratic leadership Maryland General Assembly. They don’t vote for Democrats any longer, so the Democrats don’t care about them. But why do they not vote for Democrats? It’s not just because Democrats don’t care about them, but that Democrats actively support policies that hurt Western Maryland.

High taxes have been forcing residents and businesses to West Virginia for years. Unnecessary and draconian gun laws hurt the ability of Western Marylanders to hunt. More and more regulations are being put on not just businesses, but local governments. Local schools are disadvantaged thanks to a diminished tax base and education policy that disproportionately advantages Democratic strongholds.

The residents of Allegany, Garrett and Washington Counties rightly believe that Maryland Democrats have done them dirty.

The likelihood of this happening however is slim and none. I have no doubt that if there is a nonbinding referendum (something suggested by McKay) on the ballot that it will pass. However, as always proponents misunderstand the number of hoops they have to jump through to make this happen.

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution reads:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress

So to be clear, the process will have to be approved by:

  1. The West Virginia legislature;

  2. The Maryland General Assembly;

  3. Congress.

Even if West Virginia signs on, you won’t be able to get past step #2. The General Assembly would never give up 244,342 taxpayers to West Virginia under any circumstances. They certainly would not go it when it means that Maryland would lose a Congressional seat to West Virginia in the process.

So yes. It’s a political stunt. But maybe this time it will get the attention of the Democrats in the General Assembly who keep putting the screws to Western Maryland.