The city council of Oroville, located in northern California, has passed a resolution to label itself as a constitutional republic to express dissent against the state’s Covid restrictions. This latest symbolic gesture further shows the divide between state level lawmakers and California’s more rural regions, with the city also refusing to enforce a ban on indoor dining last year. The Guardian has the story.
Oroville leaders said the designation was a way of affirming the city’s values and pushing back against state rules it doesn’t agree with, although a legal expert said the designation was merely a gesture and did not grant the city any new authority.
Tensions have existed throughout the pandemic between the rural north and California’s leadership, which has been among the first to implement lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccination requirements.
In Butte county, fierce opposition to Covid lockdowns and school closures drove support for recalling the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, with 51% of voters in the county backing the ultimately failed effort. Newsom’s policies, however, appear to have worked and the state had the lowest Covid infection rate in the U.S. last month.
Last year, Oroville refused to enforce state requirements prohibiting indoor dining. Butte county, where Oroville is located, declined to recommend a mask mandate earlier this fall, even as cases surged and a local medical centre reported treating more patients than at any other point during the pandemic.
Before passing the resolution, council members argued they were taking a stand and advocating for residents to make their own health choices.
“I assure you folks that great thought was put into every bit of this”, the city’s mayor, Chuck Reynolds, said. “Nobody willy-nilly threw something to grandstand”.
But the city’s declaration does not shield it from following federal and state laws, said Lisa Pruitt, a rural law expert at the University of California, Davis, who said it was not clear what the designation meant.
“A municipality cannot unilaterally declare itself not subject to the laws of the state of California”, Pruitt said. “Whatever they mean by constitutional republic you can’t say hocus pocus and make it happen”.
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