Legislative Post Mortem April 28, 2009

Good morning, Riders,

Grab that doughnut and cup of coffee, or perhaps a beer and a brat, and settle back.

The good news is that the motorcyclists in Washington State survived the good intentions of the Washington State Legislature for another year with one win and no serious damage.  The irony is that the win and the damage were contained in the same bill.

HB 1403 (Addressing the detection of motorcycles and bicycles at vehicle-activated traffic control signals.) got caught up in the wrangling at cutoff in the house and did not see any floor action.  This could have meant that we were going to be required to wait until next year to try to get SB 5387, the companion bill for HB 1403, brought into play in the senate.  The lobbyist for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (BAW) went to work looking for a bill with traction, related to motorcycling or bicycling, that the traffic signal language could be appended to.  He managed to find an innocuous (in his eyes) little technical correction bill that might work.  Here is where it gets to be fun.  The bill he found was SB 5482.

, was a bill requested by Washington State Patrol.  It started out as merely a technical correction bill, with the language being shopped out to stakeholders last summer.  The problem developed when WSP changed it to add language referring to FMVSS 218 back into the helmet definition.  This is contrary to what the riders of this state had enacted on their behalf in 2003.  The WRRA and ABATE of WA were there to remind the committee that WSP had reneged on their original language and was trying an end run on ESSB 5335 (2003).  In spite of our efforts the bill cleared the senate and House Transportation and was pulled to the floor calendar.  ABATE of WA took the lead on the continued opposition to this change in the helmet definition.  They were a major part of the coalition that drove the original legislation back in 2003.  Donnie Landsman, their Legislative Affairs Officer, orchestrated a good campaign against the reinsertion of the FMVSS 218 language into the RCW, to no avail.  The bill passed, with the HB 1403 language appended onto it.  The senate concurred with the amendment and SB 5482 was sent to the Governor.  It is scheduled to be signed at 10:00 on the 29th of April.

So there you have it: a win and a loss in the same bill.  While we may be faced with more of the old officer discretionary stops and the ensuing roadside debate on the definition of a helmet, we do have an avenue of relief when the traffic signal will not locate our bikes.  I will be following up in a later article with my take on how to proceed with traffic signal issues.

As a side bar note on SB 5482, as a result of a friendly wager someone over at ABATE of WA, and you know who you are, owes me a case of Black Butte Porter.

Boards and Committees:

At the beginning of session the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Board and the Non Highway & ORV advisory committee were on the chopping block.  Of all of the bills looking at doing away with boards and committees (HB 2087, HB 2151, SB 5994 & SB 5995), only SB 5995 made it to the Governor’s desk.  Every time the bills got a hearing I was there to speak against them, both as the Government Relations Specialist, and on behalf of the American Motorcyclists Association.  After my testimony to the senate committee I got the opportunity to privately brief the Governor’s representative, and when we parted, she definitely understood that there was no fiscal imperative to eliminate either group.  I also had the opportunity to follow up with her and the staff person actually working the bills.  We also had good results in mobilizing the troops to call their representatives.  It then became a game of “wait and see,” as these bills could be brought back to life at any time prior to the close of session since they were tied to the budget.  It all paid off, because when the smoke had cleared the Safety Advisory Board and the Non Highway & ORV advisory committee both survived.

Now for the rest of the news:

These are the issues that had no traction at all.  (None of them cleared committee, and only one got a hearing)

SB 5652 (Requiring a reduction in toll rates charged to motorcycles) has been dropped in the senate and forwarded to Senate Transportation.  Representative Dan Roach (R-31) dropped HB 2093 (the house version) on Feb. 10.  Considering the budget issues, neither of these bills got a hearing.

HB 1964 (Modifying motorcycle helmet use requirements) was introduced into the house.  The original request was for language eliminating any requirement for helmet usage at the age of majority (18) with absolutely strings attached.  Unfortunately, through a series of miscommunications, the language from last year that calls for health insurance or rider training got introduced instead.  Neither the WRRA nor, to my understanding ABATE of WA, actually supported the health insurance or rider training language, but at the end of the day it was a moot point.  Under the current legislative lineup there was absolutely no chance for this bill to gain any traction at all.  It does serve as a starting point for conversation about accident prevention in lieu of injury prevention.

SB 5552 (Modifying restrictions on children riding motorcycles) is another attempt to regulate how responsible riders take their children riding.  We have been there before and demonstrated many times the there is no problem, to there is no problem to solve, but some people just need to regulate any behavior that seems to look “risky.”  The good news is that although the bill got a hearing, it did not pass out of committee prior to cutoff.  Hopefully this one is dead for quite a while.

Finally, there is HB 1344 (Exempting enclosed, three-wheeled passenger vehicles from the motorcycle endorsement requirement) which exempts these high mileage three wheeled cars that are starting to show up from being designated as a motorcycle or having a requirement to be endorsed to operate one.  It got introduced and then never saw the light of day.

That is about it for now.  I look forward to seeing you at the meeting Wednesday evening.

Until the next time, Ride safe and legislate well.

“Texas” Larry Walker Government Relations Specialist Washington Road Riders Association wrraleg@aol.com 360-271-9285

Comments are closed.