Plot to give 65% of Oregon to Idaho moves forward

Oregon state senator introduces proposal to give 65% of Oregon to Idaho after conservative residents of 11 eastern Beaver State counties voted to join with their GOP neighbor

  • State Senator Dennis Linthicum introduced Senate Joint Memorial 2 
  • Also known as the ‘Greater Idaho’ bill, it would move 11 counties to Idaho
  • The bill was introduced in the wake of Oregon’s recent state elections 
  • Democrats hold governors mansion and majorities in the state legislature 

The movement by residents of Eastern Oregon to secede from the state and join Idaho has taken a step further after a Republican state senator introduced a bill that would allow 11 counties to join their neighboring state.

State Senator Dennis Linthicum introduced Senate Joint Memorial 2 on January 10, also known as the ‘Greater Idaho’ bill. 

‘Eastern Oregon is culturally, politically, economically much more similar to Idaho than it is to western Oregon,’ said Matt McCaw, a spokesman for the Greater Idaho Movement.

‘Our movement is about self-determination and matching people to government that they want and that matches their values. In Oregon, we’ve had this urban-rural divide for a very long time.’ 

State Senator Dennis Linthicum introduced Senate Joint Memorial 2 on January 10, also known as the 'Greater Idaho' bill

State Senator Dennis Linthicum introduced Senate Joint Memorial 2 on January 10, also known as the ‘Greater Idaho’ bill

Though the movement has been bubbling for a while, the bill was introduced in the wake of Oregon’s recent state elections, in which a Republican came within four points of winning the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1987.

Republican nominee Christine Drazan, the GOP leader in the state House, fell short in her effort, against Democrat Tina Kotek

Kotek, the state’s first openly gay woman to serve as speaker, will succeed outgoing Gov. Kate Brown, who has dismissed the Greater Idaho Movement and previous GOP attempts to recall her from office. 

In addition to coming up short in the governor’s race, Democrats in the more progressive western part of the state, which contains Oregon and the two major college towns, still led the left to a 10-seat majority in the state house and a 5-seat majority in the state senate. 

Eleven eastern Oregon counties have voted in favor of this so far, with four other counties, including Wallowa, included in the proposal to move state lines.  

‘Our proposal is to take that border between Oregon and Idaho, which was set almost 200 years ago in a very different time when there was only 50,000 people in the state of Oregon…it made sense then, it doesn’t make sense now to have that border there because that’s not where the cultural divide is,’ McCaw said. 

Idaho’s state government is even more dominated by Republicans than Oregon is by Democrats.

Outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

Oregon Gov-elect Tina Kotek

The movement to split the state via political leanings was emphasized following a close governor’s race that saw Democrat Tina Kotek (right) win to succeed Kate Brown (right) 

Republicans have a 28-7 majority in Idaho’s state senate and a 58-12 majority in the state legislature. 

Idaho has not elected a Democratic governor since 1995. 

‘The policy and the government that works for western Oregon, that western Oregonians want, does not work in eastern Oregon and it’s not what eastern Oregonians want,’ McCaw said. 

Regardless of how residents vote, to actually change the states’ borders would require lawmakers in Oregon, Idaho and U.S. Congress to sign off on it. 

While Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he was sympathetic toward the Greater Idaho cause, he acknowledged that it wasn’t likely to go anywhere. 

The border between Idaho and Oregon (pictured) would be moved westward if the bill passed

The border between Idaho and Oregon (pictured) would be moved westward if the bill passed

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said it was unlikely that the movement could succeed

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said it was unlikely that the movement could succeed 

‘There’s a lot that needs to happen before moving the border is within the realm of possibility,’ Little said. 

Oregon Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat, does not believe the bill will move forward.

McCaw, however, sees no downside to its passage.  

‘We have been to the legislature in Idaho, we have a lot of support in legislature in Idaho for this idea. They see the benefit of bringing 400,000 like-minded people into their state. It makes Idaho stronger; it gives people the government they want and it’s a win-win for everybody involved.’ 

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