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Greater Idaho push moves to House floor

Citizens for Greater Idaho organizers sold hats and shirts to potential allies at Powederhaus Brewing Company during a campaign stop in Boise.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Citizens for Greater Idaho organizers sold hats and shirts to potential allies at Powederhaus Brewing Company during a campaign stop in Boise.

The movement to combine parts of eastern Oregon with Idaho has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The resolution passed by the House State Affairs Committee Monday would authorize the legislature to begin talks with Oregon lawmakers on the issue.

So far, 11 counties in eastern Oregon have voted to study joining Idaho or have approved of the concept. State lawmakers in Oregon have introduced a similar measure.

Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) has been one of the main drivers of the movement here. She said combining these rural parts of Oregon with Idaho will help promote conservative values, like opposing the legalization of marijuana.

“A lot of Idahoans are going there and getting drugs. That will be pushed hundreds of miles away,” Ehard said, noting the same could happen with a proposed abortion clinic in the border town of Ontario.

The handful of those who testified all supported the move, which they said would save them from the “dictatorial” rule of the Democratically dominated state legislature in Salem.

Mark Simmons, a former Republican Speaker of the House in Oregon, said Idahoans should consider him and others from that part of the state as “refugees”.

“We would like to be good neighbors to the folks on the west side while they continue with their social engineering experiments. Go ahead, just leave us out,” Simmons said.

But the movement does have serious logistical challenges. Lawmakers would have to negotiate how to operate and maintain prisons occupied by inmates who violated Oregon state law, schools, and a vast rural road network.

The Burns Paiute Tribe also occupies a federally recognized reservation in Harney County.

Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) questioned whether Oregon might demand a payment for the acquisition of this land.

Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale), another Greater Idaho backer, said she wouldn’t support anything of the sort.

“That is definitely not my intent,” said Boyle. “I don’t think any Idahoan wants to pay Oregon for anything.”

If both state legislatures agree on a deal, it would still need congressional approval before being implemented

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.