Below is my January column in QuickThrottle magazine -- touching on just that subject, the start of the Legislative session.
Happy New Year! Well, here we go again -- another new year, with an open road ahead of us. There is a long-standing legend that according to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world will end sometime in 2012. And although its just a myth in my book and even such outstanding and authoritative sources of information like Wikipedia dispute it, who the hell knows when the world will end. So we should live every day like it’s our last in my book. Lord knows I’m gonna try.
It always seems like the end of the world is coming, especially when the Legislature goes into session as they do each January. The papers are full of predictions of gloom and doom and dire consequences for the citizens. We even had a little mini “pre-session” in December to soften the blow of the regular session by making some budget cuts now. Because our state – perpetually broke it seems – once again has a budget that is out of whack and things must get cut. I’d rant and rave about government overspending on un-necessary projects and programs while things like ROADS and PAVEMENT go under funded, but alas that rant goes un-heeded these days and I’ve talked myself blue in the face about it so I won’t anymore. We as riders must pay attention to our folks in Olympia – if not to make our lives better than to keep them from making our lives worse. We have some great organizations to do just that. You should, if you haven’t already, join up with one and help chart their direction and add your voice. You should also plan on coming to Olympia if you can on Thursday January 19th – that’s the traditional “Black Thursday” where the motorcycle community roars (quite literally) up to the Capitol to let our lawmakers know what’s on our minds. Yeah it’s cold as hell usually – even if it isn’t raining or snowing, but it’s important. I know most everyone has to work, but this is one of those days that can have a real impact on us as riders and I’d urge you, if at all possible, take the day and come down.
My friend and lobbying colleague “Texas” Larry Walker has been lobbying for the Washington Road Riders Association for ages – if I were to take a guess I’d gather he’s been hanging around the Capitol since the set the cornerstone, showing up on ancient single cylinder Harley. His organization’s priorities are a couple of bills that were introduced last session that they would like to see brought up again this year. First is the malfunctioning traffic signal bill, which would allow a motorcycle who’s presence is not detected by a traffic light sensor to proceed through the intersection using the same level of caution as at a stop sign, if the system goes for a full cycle without detecting the motorcycle. Having been in this situation a hundred times this right now is my favorite bill. They are also advocating for a bill that would require the motorcycle safety advisory board to meet quarterly. The current statute is vague and the board has only met five times in two years. This board could be a force for the community within government, working with other agencies to make sure the motorcycle community has a seat at the table.
ABATE, US Defenders, and the Confederation of Clubs will be working, again, on a helmet law repeal. I appreciate and admire the conviction they continue to dedicate to this cause, I really do. That being said, I see no chance that this will come to pass given the current and foreseeable make up of the legislature. However, Donnie “Mr. Breeze” Landsman, ABATE’s Legislative Affairs Officer has pointed me down a road I’d not really given much thought to. Apparently, there are some interesting court cases and existing case law that could, with the right attorney making the case, ultimately be more successful in getting the law overturned rather than an outright legislative repeal through the political process. I think that strategy is worth some additional thought and effort. So is pursuing helmet law repeal a waste of time? I tell my business clients that I represent in Olympia: “If you believe strongly in the issue and don’t care how long it takes, then no, it’s not a waste of time. However, if you have limited political power and a set of other priorities that could pass now and show immediate benefits, then focusing all or most your energy on that single issue is not something I’d advise.”
So what would I advise our rider groups to focus on? Making sure our roads are fixed and rideable. Working with other highway users to make sure money is spent on roads, pavement, and improving traffic flow. Make sure they don’t forget about motorcycles when they are setting toll rates and plans, or setting license plate taxing schemes. Those are issues that affect all of us. They are immediate, and show immediate results.
And therein lies the key – ALL OF US. If it affects all of us, it’s going to take all of us. We all need to pay attention, we all need to participate and we all need to speak up. Quick Throttle will have our Legislative Bill List on the web site again, updated every two weeks so you can see what’s going on in the Capitol. The session starts January 8th. Hop on your scoot and come down for Black Thursday. Say something! Say something for all of us!
Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com