Entries in Statehood (5)


Northeast Corner of Colorado Seeks Statehood

iStockphoto(WELD COUNTY, Colo.) -- The northeastern corner of Colorado could be the 51st state if its residents have their way.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway told ABC News that his constituents feel “ignored and disenfranchised” by the state government and Colorado State Senate Bill 252 is the “last straw” in “threatening their way of life.”  Conway and other county leaders plan of response proposes that willing Colorado plains counties form a new state and call it “North Colorado.”

The bill that has the commissioner and others up in arms would create renewable energy sources in the state. According to Conway, this bill would raise power rates for rural Colorado while exempting municipal entities from any similar rate changes.

“If you are going to impose mandates, impose them on everybody,” Conway told ABC News. “I think [this is] just one more example of the disconnect happening in the state of Colorado [between urban and rural areas]…it isn’t a Democrat or a Republican thing.”

As cited by Conway, the other factors contributing to the disconnect between the Democrat-controlled legislature and the overwhelmingly Republican rural counties include the passing of gun control legislation, “inequity” in school funding, poor transportation infrastructure and greater state focus on developing oil and gas industries at the cost of local agriculture.

While Conway admits that creating a new state will be a long process, he believes the timing and scenario of the proposal will help push it into fruition.

“We believe the way to move forward is to let people vote on this,” he said.

In the coming weeks, constituents and county leaders alike are encouraged to participate in talks discussing North Colorado statehood and garner public interest. The deadline for joining the secession movement is August 1, 2013.

“If there is enough interest we’ll go ahead and put it on the November ballot,” Conway told ABC News. “We want it to be ready to go for the legislative session in January and have that debate as soon as possible.”

If the measure was adopted, it would still need approval from theGeneral Assembly, the governor and the Colorado Legislature would need to petition Congress for the creation of a new state.

According to a report by the Coloradoan, Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, said it is still early to say whether this plan would survive in the legislature, but that doesn’t deter Conway.

“This should be a very long road, we have hurdles and I think that’s great,” he said. “At the end of the day the nice thing is that the people will decide this.”

Groups in other states have attempted similar feats including Arizona, Maine, Utah, Tennessee, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Puerto Rico Statehood Experts Challenge Voting Results

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A vote in Puerto Rico over the island’s status as a U.S. territory has triggered a fierce debate over whether a majority voted to become the 51st state.

The island territory has been debating the issue for decades and pro-statehood politicians are celebrating Tuesday’s vote claiming it was the first time in 45 years that Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood.

Others, however, are challenging that conclusion and argue that the vote indicates opposition to statehood.

“Puerto Ricans in general are just dissatisfied with the current government,” Yarimar Bonilla, a Rutgers University assistant professor of anthropology and Caribbean studies, told ABC News. “They voted against the government in place and they voted for change.”

A slim majority of voters in the Caribbean island territory chose statehood in a plebiscite, which is a non-binding referendum in which people express their opinions for or against a proposal.

The ballot included offices including the governor as well as its territory status. It’s not known how many voters skipped the territory question.

The territory question had two parts. The first part asked voters if they favored their current status as a U.S. territory. About 54 percent of voters said no, that they were not happy with the status quo.

From there, everyone could answer a second question that gave three options: statehood, sovereign free association or independence. Sovereign free association is not the same as the current status.

Only about 1.3 million voters answered the second question. Of those, 61 percent chose statehood, 33 percent chose the semi-autonomous choice and six percent chose independence. Nearly 500,000 people left the question blank. The population of Puerto Rico is nearly 4 million people.

It was the first time statehood won a majority of votes in similar referendums in the past 45 years.

“Statehood didn’t win,” Bonilla said. “There was a vote of whether people wanted to change the current status or not and the majority voted for change in current status. However, that wasn’t a win for statehood.”

“If you take into account the number of people who want to continue with the status that they have now and the amount of people who voted for an option other than statehood, then statehood doesn’t have a majority vote,” she said.

Additionally, the people voted to oust Gov. Luis Fortuna, a member of the pro-statehood party, along with other pro-statehood leaders.

“The state party was defeated in the general election,” Edgardo Melendez, a Hunter College professor in the Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies told ABC News. “The statehood governor lost. They lost both chambers of the legislature. This is a general victory for the Popular Democratic party, which supports commonwealth.”

The results of the vote will be sent to Congress and to the White House. It would be up to Congress to initiate a process to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.

“Nothing is going to come of this,” Bonilla said. “There’s no consensus. You have a divided population. There’s no way Obama can say that the Puerto Rican people have spoken in a united voice for anything.”

Bonilla said the ballot was designed by the statehood party, not by Congress.

“If you compare what statehood got in this election with previous plebiscites, it’s not such a big difference,” Melendez said. “There is no real growth in the statehood option so we have to be very, very careful in saying this is a victory for statehood because it’s not.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Will Back Puerto Ricans’ Desire for Statehood

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Landing in Puerto Rico on the eve of the island’s weekend primary, Mitt Romney reiterated his stance on its quest for statehood, saying he would support whatever the majority of the citizens desired and would not impose preconditions on the U.S. territory should it decide to try to become a state.

“My view is that the people of Puerto Rico should have, as they will have, the opportunity to make their own wishes felt,” said Romney, who stood beside Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno as he addressed the press on a tarmac. “If a majority of Puerto Ricans wish to become a state, then I will support that effort in Washington and will help lead that effort in Washington.”

Asked whether he believed making English the official language of the territory would be necessary for it to become the 51st state -- a question that plagued Sen. Rick Santorum during a trip here earlier this week -- Romney said he doesn’t have “preconditions” that he would impose.

“I’ll go back to what I said before … I will support the people of Puerto Rico if they make a decision that they would prefer to become a state,” said Romney. “I don’t have preconditions that I would impose. I instead will stand and work with your governor to help carry out the will of the people of Puerto Rico.”

Santorum, who campaigned around San Juan this week, dialed back comments he made to a local reporter suggesting that he would require Puerto Rico to adopt English as its official language in order to achieve statehood. Santorum later said he believed the country should place importance on both languages.

Romney also made clear his preference for all children to master English, referring to it as the “language of opportunity.”

“Well, as you know, English has been an official language of Puerto Rico for 100 years and I think selecting the words of your governor, Spanish is the language of Puerto Rico’s heritage, English is the language of opportunity,” he said. “I would hope that young people would learn both languages, but particularly English so that as they trade throughout the country and participate in educational opportunities, and economic opportunities throughout the country, that their English skills would make it even easier for them to travel and be effective in trade in the United States and, of course, abroad.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Parades in Puerto Rico Amid Questions on English, Statehood

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- With a jazz bland blaring island music and a narrator touting Rick Santorum’s conservative credentials in Spanish, the Santorum family led a pop-up parade in their honor down a main thoroughfare in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday afternoon.

While Santorum, his wife Karen and five of their seven children made their way down the cobblestone streets, supporters chanted, ”Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum!”

The family stopped to take photos and sign autographs both for those who can vote for him in the Republican primary in Puerto Rico on Sunday, and for Americans who seemed surprised when they ran into a presidential candidate while vacationing.

Carlos Rodriguez, Santorum’s deputy state director, was the designated narrator, and as the family made their way down the winding streets of Old San Juan, he told the crowd, “Vote for Rick Santorum.”

“Puerto Rico, the first Republican candidate is here today,” he said.  “San Juan, vote for Rick Santorum, he’s the conservative candidate.”

When the family reached the ocean side, Santorum was asked again about some controversial comments he made while campaigning in the island earlier this week.

English, he told a local newspaper on Wednesday, should become the “principal language” of the territory if Puerto Rico wants to be the nation’s 51st state.

On Thursday, he told reporters, “English should be taught here and everyone should speak English here.”

“It’s something that I think is essential to be an American period,” Santorum said.  ”Whether you’re going to be a state or not, people should speak English.  And English should be a common language among all Americans.  Period.  And the idea that somehow or another it should be the only language -- it’s not the only language in California, it’s not the only language in Arizona, it’s not the only language in New Orleans -- we understand that people of different cultures speak different languages, but we have a common language, and that’s what I was saying yesterday.  To suggest that maliciously, I would add, (that) someone would maliciously write that I said that, was really unfortunate.”

He told reporters before leaving the island that the original story was “crap.”

Statehood is a crucial issue on the island -- one that has divided the people there -- and during the two days Santorum spent campaigning for the territory’s 23 delegates, he was frequently asked about the issue.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and most Republicans on the island are supportive of statehood.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich Pressed on Puerto Rico Statehood in South Florida

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich(MIAMI) -- Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were pressed Friday about their positions on Puerto Rican statehood at a gathering of Latino Republicans in Miami as the GOP candidates spar for Hispanic support in the final days before Florida’s Tuesday primary.

A cadre of Puerto Ricans attending the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) conference were peeved that the issue of statehood was given short shrift during Thursday night’s CNN debate in Jacksonville, which was co-sponsored by HLN. Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, appearing from here in Miami, asked the candidates Thursday night about Puerto Rico’s statehood, but the question went unanswered by all but one GOP candidate before moderator Wolf Blitzer moved on to other topics.

Cuevas-Neunder, the CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce in Florida, was front and center at the conference Friday when Gingrich noted that the question was “one that unfortunately was not covered very well last night and I regret that Wolf Blitzer did not turn and ask the rest of us.”

“I have had a firm position on the right of the Puerto Rican people to have a referendum,” Gingrich said to applause. “I am not dictating the outcome of the referendum because there are several options and the Puerto Rican people have to make that decision.

“But I think they have every right and I support their right to have a referendum to decide on statehood or not and that is something which I would actively support as their right to have a referendum and then, as every other state has, to negotiate the process of accession if that’s what the people of Puerto Rico want to do,” he added.

Enter Cuevas-Neunder.

“Mr. Speaker, I am the lady of the question,” she said, standing up in the front of the audience. “Our Puerto Ricans have given more men and women to the United States Armed Forces than any other state in the union. We have 4 million Puerto Ricans in the United States who are voters. We have 52 percent of our children who are in poverty. The question is very simple; You want our vote, yes or no?”

“The question is do you believe that we are able to be a state or not? Simple.”

“I just said what I believe and if you don’t like it, I am sorry we disagree,” Gingrich replied. “I believe the people of Puerto Rico should make the decision."

“What I’m telling you is if the people of Puerto Rico make the decision that they want to be a state,” Gingrich continued to applause from the crowd, “I will work actively to help them negotiate the process of accession to the United States, but the people of Puerto Rico have to decide their future. I would welcome them if they make the decision, but I will not tell them what decision they should make.”

An hour later, Romney addressed the issue in his remarks at the conference, receiving a warmer response from the crowd, including from Cuevas-Neunder, who stood and applauded the former Massachusetts governor.

“I’m looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state,” he said as the audience cheered. “Wow, we’ve got some friends here."

“I think it’s in November you’re having a referendum and I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide that they want to become a state and I can tell you that I will work with [Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno] to make sure that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood, that we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico.”

That’s further than he went with Univision’s Jorge Ramos Wednesday, when he said, “my choice is to let them make their choice.”

Statehood is a controversial issue among Puerto Ricans and not all support the idea. Others believe it should become independent or remain a commonwealth. But many Puerto Rican voters in the United States back statehood, including many who live in Florida. Puerto Rican voters are the second-largest Latino voting bloc in the Sunshine State, with about 420,000 living here, heavily concentrated around the crucial I-4 corridor in central Florida. And Puerto Ricans tend to be a swing constituency, backing Obama in 2008 and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2010, meaning they could play a critical role in the state’s Jan. 31 primary and in the general election later.

In the most recent Latino Decisions poll conducted for ABC News and Univision News, Puerto Rican Republicans in Florida favor Romney over Gingrich by 22 percent to 12 percent. Gingrich fares even worse among registered Cuban-Americans here -- the state’s largest Latino group -- trailing Romney 49 percent to 17 percent.

“We have a lot of support within the Latino community,” Gingrich said at a news conference before his speech at the event. “I’m encouraged by all that’s happening.”

Gingrich was asked why he supports only the military component of the DREAM Act, not the scholastic one -- the bill would enable some children of undocumented immigrants to have a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or attend college.

“I think the American people are very prepared to allow someone to earn citizenship by serving this country,” Gingrich said. “I think it’s harder to get Americans to agree that the simple act of going to school achieves the same thing.”

Romney, for his part, touched in his remarks on the drug problems plaguing Latin America and, therefore, affecting this country, too.

“One of the things I will do in my first 100 days of my presidency is form a hemispheric task force, bringing nations together that are willing to become part of this to look at these issues,” Romney said. “There are a number of places that drugs are now being brought from. Puerto Rico is one of those now that is being used. Given the fact that there is more difficulty getting through the Mexico border, people are looking at Puerto Rico as a place to bring drugs into the United States and from there into Florida. We need to be far more vigilant in looking at the cross border implications of crime."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio