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House OKs formal ‘Greater Idaho’ talks

by CLARK CORBIN / Idaho Capital Sun
| February 17, 2023 1:00 AM

With a wink and a smirk the Idaho House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a nonbinding memorial calling for formal talks between the Idaho and Oregon legislatures to discuss moving some rural Oregon counties out of their state and into Idaho.

The proposal is rooted in the so-called Greater Idaho movement, which seeks to include about 11 counties, or 63% of Oregon’s landmass, within Idaho’s borders because proponents of the plan think eastern Oregon is more politically and culturally aligned with Idaho than Oregon’s larger progressive cities in the western part of the state.

Such a large-scale change to state borders hasn’t occurred since the Civil War, and moving the borders would require the Idaho Legislature, the Oregon Legislature and Congress to all sign off in favor of the change. The move would also likely require multiple amendments to the Idaho Constitution, which defines the state’s borders and caps the number of state legislative districts at 35.

Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise, jokingly debated in favor of House Joint Memorial 1 before sarcastically asking for permission to amend the proposal to also add all of Montana to Idaho. Nash reasoned adding Montana to Idaho could be enough to allow Idaho to pick up a Democratic seat in Congress.

There are several potential and major stumbling blocks in the way of moving the borders, including major policy differences between the states of Oregon and Idaho on sales tax, minimum wage, school funding, abortion rights and marijuana.

Nevertheless, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, said there is no reason not to consider adding such a giant expansion of land to Idaho. Ehardt said she and Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, have been working on the issue actively for two years.

Rep. Ned Burns, D-Bellevue, criticized legislators for working on the proposal, saying they are backing a far-fetched plan to help Oregon residents at a time when the Idaho Legislature has not yet set any of Idaho’s 2024 state budget or passed property tax reduction acts that Idahoans have said in public surveys should be a top legislative priority.

Even Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, who voted for the memorial to encourage discussion, expressed his doubts.

“The reality is, I don’t believe this will ever happen,” Clow said.

In the end, the Idaho House voted 41-28 to adopt the memorial. Voting yes from North Idaho were Sage Dixon, District 1; Heather Scott, District 2; Dale R. Hawkins, District 2; Vito Barbieri, District 3; Jordan Redman, District 3; Joe Alfieri, District 4; Elaine Price, District 4; Ron Endive, District 5; and

Tony Wisniewski, District 5.

Voting no from North Idaho was Mark Sauter, District 1.