The Idaho House of Representatives voted in favor of the “Greater Idaho” bill, allowing Oregon negotiations to move forward with Oregon legislators about relocating the state line between Oregon and Idaho.
The “Greater Idaho” bill would push Idaho’s state lines to induct 13 eastern Oregon counties and four partial eastern Oregon counties, which includes all of Harney and Malheur counties, into Idaho. In total, the proposed counties account for 62% of Oregon’s land mass and 9% of the overall population in Oregon. A large red and gray map on Greater Idaho’s website illustrates the imagined expansion, outlining which eastern Oregon counties have already approved the motion and which have yet to vote.
Below the map on the movement’s web page is a list of frequently asked questions for curious clickers. “Self-determination” and “End the gridlock” in regards to the tension between Oregon’s largely Democratic legislature and Republican representatives are listed under a section delineating how “moving the Oregon/Idaho state line would benefit Western Oregon!”
Idaho representatives approved the bill on Feb. 15 after meeting to discuss the possibility and its implications for both Idaho and Oregon. Idaho Representative Barbara Ehardt spoke the first words in favor of the bill at the meeting.
“We are talking about a portion of Oregon that felt like they no longer fit in the state in which they resided,” Ehardt said when she took the floor. “Why wouldn’t we at least want to have this conversation? Why, when with Idaho having been the fastest growing state in the union until recently when Florida passed us, why wouldn’t we want to have a conversation with so many people moving in here about expanding our land mass?”
The con-joining of eastern Oregon counties to Idaho is largely seen as an advantage to Idaho, as a recent study by the Claremont Institute showed that the addition of rural Oregon counties would have significant positive economic benefits for Idaho.
Oregon Spokesman for the Greater Idaho movement Matt McCaw pointed out gun regulation as an example of political divide between eastern Oregon cities and northwest Oregon cities, most notably Portland.
“Portland voters forced a gun control measure on the whole state, although eastern Oregon voters almost defeated it,” McCaw said during the introduction of the bill to the Oregon Senate. “And then an eastern Oregon judge blocked it. His injunction might stand for a couple years while he decides the case. If Oregon had let Grant and Harney counties go when they requested to join Idaho, then their judge wouldn’t have blocked an Oregon measure. Grant and Harney counties are ranchland, and Portland is not. It doesn’t make sense for these two cultures to be dictating policy to each other.”
In a response to the trade, U.S. Rep. Earl Bluemenauer, (D-Ore,) said he’d be willing to discuss a potential land-oriented transaction.
“I would entertain a trade for Boise and Sun Valley,” Blumenauer said in a statement.
Sun Valley and Boise are two of the wealthier cities in Idaho—this would allow for some budgetary balance, since in the current plans Idaho would take in 11 of Oregon’s poorer, rural counties. In this deal, Oregon would keep Bend as well.
This is phase one of the plan, anyways. Phase two, which is now optional according to the Greater Idaho website, would add to Idaho five northeastern California counties, along with three small counties and two small towns from southeastern Washington.
Yet, the bill is still a long way away from happening. In order to pass, it would require an interstate pact between both state legislatures and then Congress’ stamp of approval. So far, 11 counties in Oregon have voted in favor of moving the border. Eastern Wallowa County is set to vote next, followed by five other counties that have yet to plan a vote on the supposed proposition.
For now, the conversation between Oregon and Idaho is just beginning.
“We are asking Oregon Legislature leaders to give this idea a hearing in Oregon,” a press release on the Greater Idaho movement’s website, greateridaho.org, said. “Unlike any other bill, our Oregon bill SJM 2 is supported by the votes of 11 counties, and a poll a year ago showed that 68% of northwestern Oregonian voters want their officials to look into the idea. Eastern Oregon deserves a chance to present this proposal to Oregon state leaders.”
What about the people that DO NOT want to be part of Idaho? You obviously dont care abuot ANY of us!