Florida could be split in two, effectively creating the 51st state of "South Florida," if city officials near the southern end of the (currently singular) Sunshine State have their way.
Commissioners in the city of South Miami passed a resolution calling for the "legal separation" of Florida into two states, north and south.
The reason: South Miami Vice Mayor Walter Harris says state leaders in Tallahassee aren't doing enough to address southern Florida's concerns about rising sea levels and climate change.
The resolution proposes that Florida's 24 southernmost counties secede from the Sunshine State and create a new state called South Florida. The remaining 43 counties would retain the original name "Florida."
The dividing line would be the northern borders of Brevard, Orange, Polk, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, effectively splitting up the Central Florida and Tampa Bay areas between the two states.
At first glance, the proposed secession looks like a King Solomon-style split across the middle, but according to the resolution, South Florida would consist of 39 percent of the area and 67 percent of the population of the currently whole state.
Florida is currently the fourth most populous state in the union, with over 19 million residents. The proposed split would give South Florida just under 13.4 million citizens, which would make it the new fourth most populous state. "North" Florida would drop to a population of 5.76 million and 20th on the list, behind Maryland (5.88 million) and ahead of Wisconsin (5.73 million).
Orange County would be the northernmost point of the new South Florida. South Miami leaders noted the South Florida Water Management District includes part of Orange County.
The South Miami City Commission voted 3–2 on Oct. 7 to pass the resolution calling for the split. The resolution was then sent to the governing bodies in the 24 counties of the would-be South Florida.
But in order for the secession to actually happen, the resolution would need electorate approval from the entire current state of Florida, as well as approval in Congress.
Not likely, though it's happened before. The last time a U.S. state split in two was during the Civil War, when 50 counties in Virginia broke away to form the state of West Virginia. Kentucky was also previous part of Virginia before it split in 1792, and Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820.
Mayor Philip Stoddard echoed the vice mayor's complaint that Tallahassee isn't taking action to combat rising sea levels, telling the Orlando Sentinel he had wanted South Florida to secede for years, but never put it to a formal resolution.
Said Stoddard: "It's very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean."
"Saw the state," you say? That reminds us of this popular image of Bugs Bunny doing just that in a 1949 cartoon: