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Campaign to break California into six states submits signatures

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - The billionaire backer of a long-shot effort to break California into six separate states submitted signatures to state officials on Tuesday aimed at putting his proposal before voters in 2016.

Timothy Draper, a founder of a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that has invested in Twitter, Skype and Tesla, among other companies, has been agitating for months for a ballot initiative to chop the most populous U.S. state into smaller entities.

"Today, we turn in 1.3 million signatures that say we are ready to make a change," Draper said. "We are ready to create six more responsive, representative governments."

Draper says his plan would create a more business-friendly environment, solve the state’s water issues, and ease traffic congestion.

But the idea has raised bipartisan hackles across the state, and opponents say it stands little chance of gaining voter approval. If it does win the support of voters, it must still be passed by Congress, which opponents say is also unlikely.

“The proposed ballot measure to divide California into six new states needs to be called out for what it is - a craven attempt to divide California along strict socioeconomic lines," said Paul Song, executive chairman of the progressive activist group Courage Campaign.

Draper's plan would split the world’s eighth-largest economy along geographic lines.

One state, to be called Silicon Valley, would include the tech hub along with the San Francisco Bay Area. Jefferson, named after the third U.S. president, would encompass the northernmost region. The state capital of Sacramento would be in North California, while South California would be made up of San Diego and the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles.

L.A. itself would be part of a state called West California.

"This is a colossal and divisive waste of time, energy, and money that will hurt the California brand,” said Steven Maviglio, a Democratic political strategist who has formed the group OneCalifornia with Republican strategist Joe Rodota to fight Draper’s plan. "It has zero chance of passage."

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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