Logging trucks line up in front of the Oregon Capitol. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
Loggers and logging trucks made their way from the fairgrounds in Salem to the Capitol this morning to protest two bills – House Bills 2020 and 2007.
A long convoy of logging trucks drove along Court Street honking, while people held signs and cheered.
Traffic backed up into south Salem along Commercial Street SE and Liberty Street SE as more trucks drove toward the Capitol.
By 8 a.m., hundreds of people were on the Capitol Mall, wearing chrome and colored hard hats, suspenders and boots, cheered on by pop songs blaring from overhead speakers. Dozens if not hundreds of semi trucks and pickup trucks with flags and painted messages protesting the bill circled the block, sounding their airhorns.
The Capitol on Thursday was transformed. The business suits were swapped out for camo, cutoff shirts and Three Percenter sweatshirts. Lawmakers were mostly absent as the House was not scheduled to convene, yet the building teemed with more state police than at any point during the legislative session.
When the Senate convened briefly at 9:30 a.m. – not its usual time – semitruck airhorns immediately began sounding, reminding lawmakers that they are being watched. In the gallery above sat loggers and truckers, peering down at the faux floor session that lasted mere minutes, no one expecting any real work to be done.
Senator Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, one of the more vocal and liberal members of the Senate, said she’s had a police escort the past two days but so far hasn’t had any issues with protesters.
The log truckers have become a recent presence at the Capitol. HB 2020 would increase the cost of motor vehicle fuels, and they also fear it could further limit how much logging could be done in the state.
However, this week, the Senate Democratic leaders said the bill is dead: The votes aren’t there. Opponents, including Republican senators, have said they don’t trust that’s the case. The senators, who left the state last week in protest, said Wednesday night they would like to see the bill go on the ballot.
The group is also protesting HB 2007, which establishes a diesel standard for medium and heavy-duty trucks. However, the bill only regulates trucks driving through the greater Portland metro area, and logging trucks – among others – are exempt from the standard.
The rally was organized through the Facebook page Timber Unity, which has grown to more than 6,000 followers in just a couple weeks. The movement has constantly been portrayed as a pure grassroots movement by members and lawmakers in opposition of the bill, but the group recently formed a political action committee directed by Andrew Miller, chief executive officer of Stimson Lumber.
The PAC reports about $13,000 in contributions since it was registered with the state last Thursday, June 20 — the same day Senate Republicans walked out. Of that money, $5,000 came directly from Miller.
This story is developing and will be updated.