Republican State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Decatur, introduced a bill Tuesday urging Congress to "enact legislation dividing Illinois and Cook County into separate states."
The bill [HJR0052] argues that the state of Illinois is "functional to the extent that its people agree on politics, society, and economics." Because, according to the bill, the majority of Cook County residents "hold different and firmly seated views on these important questions" than residents of the state's other 101 counties and have roughly equivalent populations. They both should each "enjoy the chance to govern themselves with their firmly seated values," the bill's sponsors believe.
Mitchell's bill goes on to cite Maine's secession in 1819 from the state of Massachusetts after over forty years of being a "physically separate but politically contiguous" part of the state.
The bill, finally, calls on the state's General Assembly to authorize a referendum leaving the matter up to the state's voters. Once approved, the fate of the bill would then theoretically be left up to the U.S. Congress and President Obama.
Mitchell explained to the Decatur Tribune that when he speaks with his constituents, "one of the biggest things I hear is 'Chicago should be its own state.'"
"Downstate families are tired of Chicago dictating its views to the rest of us," Mitchell continued. "You only have to look at the election results from last year's governor’s race to see the problem. Cook County carried Pat Quinn, while almost every downstate county supported Bill Brady. Our voters' voices were drowned out by Chicago."
As of Tuesday, only state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Decatur, has signed on to the measure as a co-sponsor. He told the Decatur paper that "lame-duck Democrats" were responsible for the passage of the state's income tax hike, civil union passage and the abolition of the death penalty.
"These liberal policies are an insult to the traditional values of downstate families," Brown told the Decatur Tribune.
Mitchell has railed previously on the influence of Cook County and specifically Chicago politicians and voters on the state's laws, particularly as it concerns the state's gun policies. Earlier this year, the representative, who has served in the state House of Representatives since 1999, issued a statement saying that "the Chicago politicians continue to block passage of concealed carry in Illinois. ... The Speaker [Michael Madigan] and his Chicago allies cannot stop concealed carry forever."
What would be the economic impact of Cook County seceding from the rest of the state of Illinois? As of 2010, the gross state product of Illinois overall was $652 million. The Chicago area's gross metropolitan product is $532 billion. As CBS Chicago points out, Illinois is home to about 12.8 million residents, of whom 5.2 million, roughly 40 percent, live in Cook County.
Last year, the Chicago Reader's "Straight Dope" column also dug into the idea and itemized a Chicago-centric list of who would get what should Cook County and the rest of Illinois call it splits. The piece argued that while Chicago has "more total wickedness, Chicago has more total everything (except corn)." It concluded that the plan would "work out for both sides. We'd get most of the people, material possessions, and things that make life worth living. You'd get a state free of us."
Given the issue's newly found legislative relevance in Illinois, the entire column is certainly worth a read.