ONTARIO — A bill which will give residents in Malheur County preferences in public employment within the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region is nearing a final vote in the House.

As originally written, House Bill 2026 would give border area residents preference to those public jobs if the majority of the work would be done in the border region, which includes the area 20 miles within Oregon/Idaho border, from the Annex and Brogan areas south to Adrian. 

However, just as he was preparing to bring it to the House floor, bill sponsor Rep. Mark Owen, R- Crane, had the bill sent back to committee to be amended. The main change was that anyone living in the Malheur County will be eligible to to apply. Previously, it was exclusive to the border region.

The bill was sent to the House Rules Committee where it was passed to the House floor Wednesday on a 5-to-2 vote with a “do-pass” recommendation. 

“I struggle with giving preference to someone based on geography,” said Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, who was one of the no votes. However, he added that he understands the issues in the border region. Rep. Julie Fahay, D-District 14, said she agreed with Bonham’s position. 

Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, said she had been to the Ontario area with Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, visiting with business leaders and the Economic Development Board.

“I’m not skeptical” that the issues are real, she said.

“Issues are not the same as Portland and Vancouver,” Salinas said.

There was no indication on when a vote would take place.

Also last week, Senate Bill 5, which would require local government to allow some affordable housing to be sited on land not zoned for residential, was passed in the House and was back in the Senate for consideration of House amendments.

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