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December QuickThrottle Column

Another month has gone by -- but I'm about done living out of boxes and amongst paper and packing peanuts. The house is coming along nicely. Just finished writing my January column which will have a new look for the new year, so it's time to post the last one of 2016 -- a look at the election and it's aftermath...
Well it’s finally over, that interminably long and disgustingly lowbrow election campaign. And now its time to govern – both on the national and on the local levels. Lets see what all these new folks can do. Wait a minute, what “new folks?”  Yep, the Washington and Oregon State Governments barely change. Jay Inslee is still Governor of Washington, and is still clueless. Here’s a perfect case in point. The program manager for the Motorcycle Safety Program at the Department of Licensing DOESN’T RIDE A MOTORCYCLE!! Let that sink in for a second – I’ll get back to it. The Republicans continue – but by a single vote – to control the State Senate, while the Democrats, lead by Speaker Frank Chopp – the longest serving speaker in state history – controls the House with his iron fist.

In Congress, in the main Seattle district, an extremely liberal nut job woman who will occupy the seat and get nothing done but will get lots of press coverage for being outspoken replaces another extremely liberal nut job man who occupied the seat for 26 years and didn’t get anything done and got lots of press coverage. Otherwise the Congressional delegation from Washington didn’t change at all.

Oh, and there was a new President who got elected, by not wining a majority of the popular votes and complaining that the system was rigged. How’s that for irony? There’s some change afoot there for sure. And the US Congress remains in the hands of the Republicans – though by slightly smaller margins, and 98.2% of the incumbents running were re-elected.

What all this means for us as riders – or as citizens -- remains to be seen. What I tell friends who are panicking that no one person, be it a legislator or president can snap their fingers and abolish something or pass something, that’s the beauty of our system. It’s designed to keep radical things from happening. Our Founders were wise people in that regard. And we can’t predict outcomes, but we can predict what issues might come up, and here’s some of what I expect to see coming down the road for us as riders.

Like the proverbial dog that finally catches the garbage truck he’s been chasing and now has to figure out what to do with it, the incoming Trump administration has to do the same thing with the US Federal Government. For those of us who like to see an emphasis on roads and highways this maybe is some good news. The New York Times reports that Trump’s transition team member who is responsible for transportation issues is a person who was once the lobbyist for the National Asphalt Pavement Association, a trade group representing highway construction firms. Trump has campaigned on increasing highway spending and this reflects that – which could indicate some changing in thinking at DOT.  I expect as well to see less emphasis on the Environmental Protection Administration regarding after-market exhaust mods on both noise and carbon dioxide levels as well as “alternative fuels” that take their toll on small engines.

Back in the Pacific Northwest, one of the smart things the voters did was reject a carbon tax in Washington which would have vastly increased gas prices, while at the same time approving a ballot measure to massively fund Sound Transit in the Seattle region. Get ready to take it on the chin with increased vehicle license fees if you live in that area.

Meanwhile the states’ Motorcycle Safety Program is going down like a rider who hits a sand patch going around a curve behind a leaky oil truck.  We as riders pay for this program, and the state is letting it deteriorate. First by putting in place a program manager who doesn’t even ride, (who is at the moment on a temporary assignment and who’s job is now being overseen by someone from the firearms section of DOL.)  Its kind of like hiring a podiatrist to treat your ailing heart. Due to retirements and shuffling at the Department of Licensing, technical expertise is leaving and being replaced by bureaucrats who know little to nothing of riding and motorcycle safety. According to my buddy and former lobbying colleague Larry Walker of the Washington Road Riders Association, there is a lot of growing concern over the “declining technical expertise and transparency of the program” and it will be something WRRA will be making lawmakers aware of this coming session.

Lastly, our friends at ABATE will be advocating for a lane-split bill again this session. This is a big hurdle to overcome, despite mountains of data indicating that lane-sharing is beneficial to both riders and to traffic and isn’t unsafe when done properly and in the right conditions. I expect a high level of resistance to this bill  -- even among the riding community. My own thinking has evolved on this issue and while I oppose it at high speeds on freeways, it does make sense in congested areas at lower speeds. Drivers of vehicles hate it, and I’m sure the state patrol does too, but it’s something that needs to be considered.  Make your voice heard early in January at the annual Black Thursday motorcycle day at the capitol – this year it’s January 19th.

Now we all elected these folks – at least we should have. I have no patience for people who don’t vote, who don’t participate in the process who then complain about it. We now get to hold them, those that were elected, accountable for their actions that affect us. Your guy or gal may not have won, but we had our say and they all deserve a chance and we need to wish them good luck and hope for their success, whatever position they hold, be it state legislator, or the US President. I’ll be watching. I hope you are too.

Gary can be reached at roadsigns@comcast.net and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com

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