By Lori Roach

Eleven Oregon republican senators fled the state and went into hiding to avoid being rounded up by the Oregon State Police per Governor Kate Brown’s orders.

Senate President Peter Courtney called it the “saddest day in my legislative life,” to ask Governor Brown to use state troopers to find the senators.

The Oregon 11, as they became known as, stayed away from the state capitol just long enough for HB2020 to die, then returned to work on Saturday and Sunday to pass other important bills for the state.

“I am absolutely thrilled that they decided to leave and they are able to kill HB2020,” said State Representative Greg Barreto. “What this has done has basically educated the public on what this bill is about.”

On Tuesday, June 25th, Courtney told his caucus that there were not enough Democratic votes to pass HB2020. “House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the people of rural Oregon realized that this legislation was going to make their lives a lot less affordable,” said Representative Daniel Bonham. “These hard-working men and women showed up at the Capitol in full force to have their voices heard. The best part for me, the rallies that these people coordinated were completely organic. There was no paid staff helping put together the protest of HB2020. The outcry wasn’t just against this one bill, but against massive overreach by the supermajority.”

It isn’t always easy to live in rural Oregon. Making a living can be hard at times, the winters can be long, the summers harsh and the support of those in the Capitol building can at times feel non-existent, so when the 11 Oregon senators walked out of the capitol in support of their constituents, many in rural Oregon felt as if they were part of the state of Oregon once again. Rural Oregon was heard! And with this voice, now known as #timberunity, HB 2020 became a dead bill.

“HB2020 Bill was a bill with good intentions, but at too high of a cost to our businesses,” said Executive Director of The Dalles Chamber of Commerce, Lisa Farquarson. “The message to our legislatures from our small businesses, agriculture industry, and the logging industry was consistent and strong that we can’t afford this bill. The Chamber’s across the state stood strong with those industries and their messaging that this bill would kill businesses all over the state. The Dalles Area Chamber supported the 11 Republicans when they walked out and not due to the political party they represented, but because they were carrying a message that was the voice of businesses and industries that would be devasted if passed. The Chamber chose a few years ago to take a stand on issues and measures that would affect our businesses either positive or negative and would be their voice. We did the same in regard to HB 2020 and our Legislature heard us and took a stand.”

From the #TimberUnity Facebook page: “Today, the #TimberUnity community proved that everyday people in this state still have a voice. We didn’t have millions of dollars to spend on lobbyists and paid advocates. We had our trucks, our radios, and our friends on Facebook. Every time we showed up, we showed up stronger. And today, everyday people in Oregon were heard when HB2020 was sent back to the Senate Rules committee to die.

Our #TimberUnity family learned an important lesson. We won’t elect politicians that don’t support our families or our jobs, our small businesses, or our employers. We know how to mobilize, and we know how to organize. We have shown that peaceful voices can stop bad legislation. We are not terrorists, right-wing militia or any other names we got called. We’re your neighbors in this state. We make, grow and build the things ALL OREGONIANS rely on to live healthy, prosperous lives. We are good stewards of our communities and the land we work on, and we deserve a seat at the table.”

“Rural Oregonians have found their voice,” said Senator Fred Girod of Stayton, one of the 11 Oregon Republicans who vacated the state in order to put a halt on the voting of HB2020. “Moderate suburban Democrats who work blue collar jobs….they found their voices too. If you all work to keep getting organized, mobilize, think about running for office, be present in our Capitol, grow your groups strong….you can be a force of nature coming back into the next legislative session. It’s brave to walk out….it’s brave to go back. But never doubt, it was YOUR actions that changed the dialogue, and that empowered change. Do not lose momentum. Do not lose conviction. Come back to fight strong in 2020. And never again elect people who don’t stand up with you! I made you a promise to stay gone, and I’m keeping it. I’ll be back in Salem for Legislative Days in September when we meet again. And I’ll be ready to stand with you to stop bills like HB2020 in February. You all have been an inspiration, you’ve renewed my faith in Oregon voters, and you’ve set the tone for the next legislative session. I am humbled, and I just can’t thank you enough.”

From the #TimberUnity Official Statement on the Death of House Bill 2020. “Thank you to the #OREGON11 who stood strong and heard our voices. You were representing your constituents and we’re grateful. Thank you to the #12Woman – new Oregon state Senator Denyc Boles, who voted not once, but TWICE to kill HB2020. We have her back! Thank you urban and suburban folks who supported this cause for standing with us. At a time when most families are still struggling to make ends meet, you understood this bill would raise the price of food and housing when we all just need a break. You also saw that we weren’t getting a fair process in Salem. Most importantly, thank you to the #TimberUnity family who heard the call, raised the funds to rally, and then gave up millions of dollars in lost wages, sales, gas, wear and tear of rigs and equipment, hotels, food, and more to storm the Capitol in all of our rallies. You deserve the credit for coming when you were called.

“When our people came to the Capitol, you brought food for the hungry, and picked up every stitch of trash. As people who respect the land, we also respect our Capitol. We’ve shown that we can be heard and do so in peaceful protest. We at #TimberUnity are proud of the men and women who took time off from work, who came from far and wide, who not only gave up a day of pay, but PAID to come to Salem. Hundreds of trucks. Thousands of PEOPLE! We brought the storm to Salem with us today. We’re not going away, we’re just getting started. We will be in the Capitol, we will stand up for our families & we’re putting boots on the ground now & in 2020. This is #TimberUnity.”

There were 105 bills that needed to be voted on over the weekend once the republicans returned, such as stiffer restrictions on oil trains that travers the Columbia River Gorge and other parts of Oregon, a family medical leave bill, and a bill that will now require the state pay for the postage on voter ballot return envelopes. These will now go to the governor’s desk where she has 30 days to either sign or veto each one.