The View From The Hill: Round 2

Well, campers, we have two weeks behind us and the first committee cutoff coming fast. Bills have to be out of any committee but a financial or transportation committee by Feb. 2nd. The bills in financial or transportation policy committees need to be reported out by Feb. 5th. This can be good news when you are trying to head off bad legislation, but bad news for the positive measures that we are pursuing. As I pointed out in my previous report, 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 sections 157/158 eliminate the Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities Advisory Committee. Riders must have been making calls, because that bill saw a lot of buzz. Representative Hunt, chair of the house State Government and Tribal Affairs committee informed me that the committee was going to do a paring down of the bill prior to the hearing and issue a list of the sections that would be removed in the proposed substitute. Not surprisingly, he was good to his word, Before the committee was convened Mr. Hunt read all assembled the list of things that were being pared out. Both section 151 and sections 157/158 were on the list. (OPR-BC to Remove) I do not when the bill will be scheduled for executive action, but I am sure that it will be reported out of the committee. After all, ther is money to be saved, and we do have a budget crisis.

Here are the points that I had been pressing home to each member:
1.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.
2.Both boards are fully supported by the stake holders.
3.Both boards facilitate a direct line of communication between the stake holders and the agency that oversees each program.
4.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.

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. The Advisory Committee at least recommended that tolls remain the same, a recommendation that the Transportation Commission chose to categorically ignore in lieu of actually raising the rates across the board. Perhaps it is time for us to press for a hearing in House Transportation so that we can have a public discussion of how tolling policy is governed. I will definitely be in touch with Representative Clibborn’s office this coming Monday, and it would not hurt if riders started calling their representatives to ask them to request that House Transportation hear the bill.

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. Both bills were heard in committee on the 18th, and it looks like the Senate Transportation Committee will move the bill out next week. The executive board of the Washington Road Riders Association appeared before both committees in support 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, not only here in Olympia but also in the press 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.”) That being said, I do think that when a law enforcement officer uses some sort of tenuous “probable cause” so that he can investigate a citizen for no more reason than because that person is riding a motorcycle it is not good police work. I am sure that it is not a wide spread behavior, but I am never comfortable when a person’s appearance is reason enough for law enforcement to deem it necessary to detain and question. That goes against my vision of the America I know and love.

Lastly, but definitely not the least, if you did not make it to Black Thursday you missed a great day. Kudos to Donnie “Mr. Breeze” from ABATE of WA and “Double D” from the Confederation of Clubs for all of the coordination work. Beautiful weather resulted in lots of riders actually being able to ride to the capitol. The north diagonal was filled to overflowing with motorcycles, and the halls were filled with well educated riders discussing their issues with their representatives. This is where the citizenship rubber meets the legislative road. If you sat at home and let everyone else do it you should be glad that the people who showed up did the heavy lifting.

If I have adequately shamed you, rest assured that there are still calls to be made and work to be done. It isn’t too late to lend a hand.

Like I say, if an old hippie from Texas can do it, how difficult can it be?

Ride Safe and Legislate Well

“Texas” Larry Walker
Governmental Relations Specialist
Washington Road Riders Association

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