The View From The Hill
Short sessions: they can be both trying and entertaining When you toss in a projected budget shortfall, a short session can, and often does, approach chaos. Fortunately for the motorcycling community, most of our issues fall outside the main screen of the budgetary radar. The two exceptions are HB 2093 which looks at lowering the toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and HB 2617 which eliminates a whole slew of boards and commissions.
HB 2617 has two sections in it that are detrimental to the motorcycling community. Section 151 eliminates the Motorcycle Safety Education Advisory Board, and section 157 eliminates the Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities Advisory Committee. The intent of the Gubernatorial request bill is to shut down all of the out dated boards and commissions that take up staff time and resources that are funded through the General or Transportation funds. This is a definite case of governmental bean counting, done with a broad stroke of the brush, which even the Governor’s policy staff admitted that there may be some things that do not need to be included in these across the board cuts. It has been left up to the legislature to pare things down to the essential cuts and save the rest. That is the way things are done in this town; propose, counter propose, negotiate, and repeat as necessary. It may sound sloppy, but it actually does get things done.
I have spent most of my time this year meeting with members of the State Government and Tribal Affairs committee. That is the committee that has to deal with HB 2617 and all of the affected stake holders.
Here are the points that I have been pressing home to each member:
All operations of either board, no matter how slight, are fully funded by the stakeholder groups, with zero operating monies coming out of General or Transportation funds.
Both boards are fully supported by the stake holders.
Both boards facilitate a direct line of communication between the stake holders and the agency that oversees each program.
In a climate in which the average citizen feels disconnected from government, the abolishment of these two well functioning and effective boards sends the wrong message to people.
Riders are encouraged to contact their state legislators and ask that they speak to the members of the committee. Feel free to use the talking points that I have already used. They work whether you are a road rider or on off road enthusiast. It keeps the message focused and on track.
Rumor has it that the bill will be heard on Thursday January 21st. I am absolutely certain that the bill will be amended before it ever clears the committee. Perhaps if we get enough buzz sections 151 and 157 will be removed in a proposed substitute prior to the bill being heard, so make the call.
The tolling bill, HB 2093 is a different sort of animal. The legislature is hesitant to direct the Washington State Transportation Commission on how they do their routine business. During the course of my conversations the general feeling is that we need to address our concerns to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – Citizen Advisory Committee in lieu of seeking a legislative solution. I will hold my opinion at this point. I am merely reporting the news.
There are two bills in the works, SB 6345, with the companion bill HB 2635, which makes using a non hands free cell phone or texting while driving a primary offense. Imagine that, actually telling the multi-tasking cager to pay attention to the driving. Distracted driving is perhaps one of the most serious issues facing the motoring public as a whole. The executive board of the Washington Road Riders Association has already expressed their support for the spirit of this measure. This is not one of those “feel good” things that protects someone from themselves. This is a proposal to reach right into the wallet of the idiots who feel that they have much better things to do than pay attention while they are herding a 5,000 pound SUV across the nation’s highways.
ABATE of Washington is continuing to pursue helmet usage reform. (HB 1964) The current version includes language that would require either motorcycle safety training of mandatory medical coverage if a rider does not wish to wear a helmet. No matter your opinion, this is a moot point. Neither Representative Clibborn (House Transportation) nor Senator Haugen (Senate Transportation) will bring the bill up for a hearing, so the main reason for having a bill is to give context to the conversation about freedom of choice. In my own personal opinion, the call for medical insurance is unnecessary, as there is no real public burden involved that merits the governmental intrusion into the lives of the citizens.
The final bill that is getting buzz here in Olympia is HB 2511. This issue is being championed by the Confederation of Clubs, the US Defenders, and ABATE of Washington. It address profiling of people “using the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest, or search a person or vehicle with or without legal basis under the United States Constitution or the Washington state Constitution.” That was quoting directly from the legislation. The WRRA is deferring the official conversation to the people who are actively championing this cause, as they are definitely the subject matter experts. (Normally, when I end up on the side of the road it more readily involves something akin to “failure to file flight plan.”)
Finally, don’t forget Black Thursday. Everyone needs to get themselves free and down to Olympia on January 21st. There will be reserved parking for motorcycles and plenty of people to help you navigate the system. What will you say when your children ask “what did you do to protect the world of motorcycling?” Do you really want to say “I sat at home and let everyone else do it?”
After all, if an old hippie from Texas can do it, how difficult can it be?
Ride Safe and Legislate Well
“Texas ” Larry Walker