BOISE – Supporters of a plan to move Idaho’s border to include large sections of eastern Oregon are hailing as a majority victory the passage of a non-binding memorial in the Idaho House last week.
The House passed the memorial on Feb. 15 to authorize talks with Oregon legislators on the border plan.
The memorial states the “Idaho Legislature stands ready to begin discssions with the Oregon Legislature regarding the potential to relocate the Oregon/Idaho state boundary.”
The measure, which carries the force of law, was sponsored by state Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale and Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.
A similar resolution was introduced in the Oregon Legislature in January. That bill, Senate Joint Memorial 2, is currently parked in the Senate Rules Committee. Senate Joint Memorial 2 is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls.
The move by Idaho legislators is latest twist in a years-long effort by members and supporters of the Greater Idaho movement to get their plan off the ground.
Matt McCaw, a spokesman for Greater Idaho, said the Idaho action was a “first step” toward merging some eastern Oregon counties into Idaho.
“But it’s a very big step,” said McCaw.
Greater Idaho aims to transfer at least 11 Oregon counites into Idaho. Supporters of the effort say Idaho is more in line politically, culturally and economically with eastern Oregon than western Oregon.
“We think elected leaders there (in Idaho) see the value of bringing in 400,000 Oregonians and a big chunk of natural resources and land,” said McCaw.
A large-scale border adjustment among states has not occurred since the Civil War.
A big group of eastern Oregon counties – Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Union and Wheeler – have passed ballot measures to direct their county commissioners to meet several times a year to discuss the border move.
Malheur County voters passed a measure in 2021 to compel the Malheur County Court to meet three times a year to discuss how to promote the county’s interest in any future negotiations about moving Idaho’s border west. The measure passed in Malheur County with a 54% approval rate.
McCaw said he believes the Idaho measure will gain widespread support when it is considered in the Idaho Senate.
“We are very confident that the legislators in Idaho see the value of this,” said McCaw.
Yet there are hurdles for such a move to become a reality.
The Idaho Legislature, the Oregon Legislature and Congress all must approve such a border change.
Other potential snags involve differences in laws governing marijuana use. In Oregon retail sales of marijuana are legal. In Idaho they are not. There are also major differences between Idaho and Oregon on taxes, minimum wage and funding for critical services such as schools.
McCaw, though, doesn’t believe those obstacles are impossible to overcome.
“These are things we can figure out. It’s a matter of figuring out what works best. There are solutions for all of these details for those who want to know what this will look like,” said McCaw.
The concept to move a state border is not “unprecedented,” said McCaw.
“States have moved borders multiple times in our history,” he said.
Jim Mendiola, Malheur County commissioner, said he supports the border move idea as a concept but doesn’t believe the effort will succeed.
“There is quite a bit of finagling to get something like that done,” he said.“In reality, I don’t think it will work.”
“I think we need to do some more fixing on what is wrong in Salem first,” he said.
McCaw said his group will also urge Oregon legislators to move forward the pending legislation that mirrors the Idaho action.
“We are asking elected leaders in the state of Oregon to move that bill forward and get it into a hearing and hear what the people of eastern Oregon are saying,” said McCaw.
Moving Idaho’s border doesn’t appear to be a major concern for Idahoans, according to a recent policy survey conducted by Boise State University.
The survey showed Idaho residents are focused on the economy, education, jobs and housing. The survey also showed that property taxes are a significant concern with a majority of Idahoans feeling they are too high.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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