Idaho State Legislature Hears Testimony from Oregon Counties Who Want to Join Idaho

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A joint committee of the Idaho State Senate and Idaho House of Representatives heard last week from a group representing residents of several southern and eastern Oregon counties who want their counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho.

The Idaho Press reported:

On Monday, the Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho organization spoke to a joint House and Senate committee about its desire to have part of Oregon join Idaho. It would make Idaho the third largest state in the country. This invitation to present to Idaho legislators in an official capacity may have been the movement’s biggest win so far in terms of gaining legitimacy.

Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, was the driving force in making the meeting possible. Ehardt is the chairwoman of the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. She also gives credit to Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, her Senate counterpart who serves as chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, for helping set up the event.

“Why not have the conversation? It’s an intriguing idea. There absolutely are benefits to the idea. It’s not necessarily something that would happen right away. Oregon, and I dare say Washington and even California, is pushing forward to try to make this happen and get the support for this move. And as Idahoans, I think we should do our part to at least have the conversation,” Ehardt said.

Move Oregon’s Border is a Political Action Committee formed in 2019 that focuses on Oregon ballot initiatives. In March, Move Oregon’s Border founder Michael McCarter announced the establishment of a 501 c 4, Citizens for Greater Idaho, which will focus “on Idaho, Oregon, and beyond, to support the vision of Move Oregon’s Border.”

Both Move Oregon’s Border founder McCarter and former Oregon Speaker of the House Mark Simmons spoke to the joint committee of the Idaho State Legislature last week, the group’s website reported:

Former Speaker of the Oregon House, Mark Simmons of Elgin, Oregon testified in favor of moving the border, describing how it would strengthen Idaho by adding the deep-water port at Coos Bay to Idaho, making it less dependent on Oregon’s decisions regarding  ports and the federal government’s upcoming decisions to perhaps eliminate locks on the Snake river.

Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, told the committees that rural Oregon’s economy would boom under Idaho’s low-tax regulatory environment, making the area a benefit to Idaho’s state budget.

Move Oregon’s Border proposes that the following Oregon counties, which had an estimated combined population of 855,000 in 2016, be allowed to join Idaho: Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wheeler, and portions of Wasco, Jefferson, and Deschutes.

The departure of those counties would reduce the population of Oregon from 4.1 million to 3.2 million, while it would increase the population of Idaho from 1.7 million to 2.5 million.

The group also proposes adding six Northern California counties (Modoc, Lassen, Tehama, Shasta, Del Norte, and Siskiyou, population totaling 355,000, to Idaho. Should all those counties in Oregon and California be allowed to join Idaho, that state’s population would increase from 1.7 million to 2.9 million.

Petitions gathered by Move Oregon’s Border have forced the placement of ballot initiatives to change the border between Oregon and Idaho for consideration by voters in nine Oregon counties.

Ballot initiatives to change the border between Oregon and Idaho have already been voted on in four Oregon counties. Two counties (Union and Jefferson) voted in favor of moving the border in November, while two additional counties (Douglas and Wallowa) voted against changing the border.

On May 18, the ballot initiative to change the border between Oregon and Idaho will be voted on in five additional counties: Baker, Lake, Grant, Malheur, and Sherman.

“Move Oregon’s Border continues to collect signatures in seven other counties where no vote has occurred yet: Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Harney, Morrow, and Umatilla counties,” the group’s website states.

The group also notes that Facebook shut its page down in January:

On January 5, Facebook permanently disabled the Facebook page and groups of Move Oregon’s Border, including a Facebook group that had 12,000 members.  However, thanks to newsletter sign-ups at its website, , the group has an email list of 3700 addresses.  It also has a presence on other social media sites such as TwitterMeWeParlerGab, and Telegram. Parler was recently restarted, and Gab now has enough servers for its traffic.

Changing the boundaries between two states so that one or more counties from one state would be allowed to join the other state requires the approval of both state legislatures as well as the Congress of the United States.


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