Greater Idaho movement gains momentum with latest Idaho House vote

BOISE, Idaho (KGW) — On Wednesday, Idaho’s House of Representatives passed a resolution, not to move the Oregon-Idaho border, but to simply start the discussion with Oregon lawmakers about whether it can, and should, be done.

It’s an early step in the ‘Greater Idaho’ movement — a push that began a couple of years back.

“For a long time, there’s been this urban-rural divide,” said Matt McCaw, a spokesperson for the Greater Idaho group. “People on the east side of the state have felt like their state-level government has not heard them, has not understood their way of life, their values, their problems, and has enacted policy that doesn’t work for us in eastern Oregon.”

The goal of the movement is for eastern counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho. McCaw said there’s growing support, despite skepticism early on.

“When you have a new idea, there’s always a lot of people that roll their eyes. They think it’s silly, they dismiss it,” he said. “When we started this two years ago, I would get that a lot. Like, ‘This will never happen, why are you wasting your time?'”

However, McCaw believes that sentiment is changing. Several counties in eastern Oregon voted to discuss moving the border and resolutions are being considered in both the Oregon and Idaho legislatures.

On Wednesday in Boise, the House approved the resolution following testimony this week.

“Why wouldn’t we at least have a conversation about increasing the size of our state?” argued Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt.

Not all lawmakers were in favor, as expressed by the House Minority Leader, Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel.

“We should not be self-segregating by ideology like this,” she said. “I think we’re on a path to civil war if we keep going down this path. We have got to learn to get along better and work together better. The answer cannot be to carve up the country and redraw lines that have been in place for a century or more, just so we can only be surrounded by people that perfectly agree with us.”

The vote itself doesn’t change the border. Approval by both chambers, in both states, simply opens the door for serious conversations between the two states about moving the border. Even if lawmakers in both states got to a point where they agreed on moving the border, Congress must also approve it.

“I think people in the metropolitan areas tend to look at it in the paper and get a good chuckle out of it, but the fact of the matter is, people in eastern Oregon are dead serious,” said former candidate for governor, Betsy Johnson, who is now a KGW political analyst.

While she said it’s far from a done deal, the discussion of the ‘Greater Idaho’ movement raises real questions and concerns.

“Quit treating the symptoms, get at the root problem and try to figure out, why would a portion of Oregon want to leave here?” she said. “What has made it so bad that they are prepared to go through the administrative and expense and political hassle of trying to separate a piece of Oregon and move it into Idaho?”

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