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Puerto Rico “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…” — U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, clause 2

A few weeks ago, our largest commonwealth voted to begin the process to become a state in the United States of America.

Since then, approving editorials have appeared in Washington, Boston and other US cities.

The White House has declared their support for what would be our 51st state:

“Congress should now study the results closely, and provide the people of Puerto Rico with a clear path forward that lays out the means by which Puerto Ricans themselves can determine their own status.”

So What Happened?

Puerto Rico had an election, and 54% stated they do not support continuing as a US Commonwealth.  This is the first time that a majority of Puerto Rican voters have voted against the status quo.

There was a second question, and this is where it gets a bit dicey.  61% chose statehood, 33% chose a semi-autonomous “sovereign free association” and 6% chose outright independence.  Oh, and 33% left the 2nd question blank.

Huh?

In this over-heated political stew, everyone points fingers at what they want the results to mean.  In this case, 480,000 voters, or roughly 1/3, did not vote on the 2nd question.  61% of the actual voters chose statehood, but if you count those that didn’t vote on this question (but did on the first), then the total of yes votes is less than 50% of those that stood in the voting booths.

Apparently, the pro-commonwealth group (which lost the first question 54% to 46%) told their supporters to leave the 2nd question blank.  This strategy allows them to claim a victory through non-participation.

To further confuse, the pro-statehood Governor lost his bid for re-election.  His pro-commonwealth opponent won, making it unlikely that the state will move forward with its statehood request any time soon.

Puerto Rico would become our second island state, but the first state where most discourse is in Spanish.

Puerto Rico would become our second island state, but the first state where most discourse is in Spanish.

What’s Next?

The US Constitution is very clear: the US Congress has 100% control of the process.  And, if a simple majority of our Senators and Representatives vote for Puerto Rican statehood next month, then they are a state.  Immedidately.  That is not expected, of course.  Historically, Congress has passed “enabling legislation” that has shown previous territories desiring admission into the Union what the correct next steps should be.  They can put any strictures they wish on the process.
  • Utah petitioned Congress for 50 years before they were finally admitted as a state.  Their enabling legislation specified that polygamy must be outlawed in their state constitution before they could be admitted.
  • The Dakotas, Montana and Washington didn’t have to wait that long, but their enabling legislation did specify that grazing contracts on public lands could be for no longer than 5 years — soon amended to ten years — when the four states were admitted.
  • Oklahoma was told that it would be admitted, but only as a combination of two territories:  the Indian territory of Sequoyah and the rest of what became the unified state of Oklahoma.  The petitioning territory of Sequoyah was not to be admitted alone as a state.
What will Puerto Rico face if enabling legislation is passed?
  • They’ll probably be directed to convene a constitutional convention to create the new state’s government (and remember, their new Governor is against the entire process).
  • Congress might require a provision that English be the only official language (currently, Spanish and English are sanctioned).
  • Puerto Rico will lose the ability they have as a commonwealth to send their own teams to the Olympic games.
  • They will for the first time have to pay … income tax.
As a wise man once said, be careful what you wish for.
Puerto Rico flagMore

Viva La Estididad De Puerto Rico!

Catch Some Wide Eye

The Pro-Commonwealth Viewpoint Is Different

Washington Times On English

Oklahoma Historical Society

Ohio’s Enabling Act of 1802

Utah’s Very Interesting Path To Statehood

Wikipedia’s Summary Of Statehood Issues

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