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February Column

So we are almost at the middle of February already -- and "Single Appreciation Day" is coming up, and here I am, single and alone and no one sending me flowers or chocolates.   Not that I need chocolates anyway.    And I just finished my March column for Quick Throttle, so it's time to post my February one from the magazine.   It's another rant about the "Nanny State" we seem to live in here in Washington...
FebQThead
Winter in Washington means several things.  Cold, clammy, foggy, icky non-riding weather; short dark days; and the Legislature takes up residence in Olympia and tries its best to either screw things up or keep things from being too screwed up.   After spending almost half my life as a lobbyist you’d think I’d not be so cynical wouldn’t you?  But I’m not.  It just gets worse each year.

Washington in particular has a great affinity for telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing.  Like my Mother growing up, the legislature and city councils in this state love to nag and pester and tell us to sit up straight, eat our veggies, clean our plates, and don’t run with scissors.  Our Legislature in particular seems to think that every social ill can be cured wagging their finger and telling folks what to do and not do.   Which is why we have to bring our own bag to the grocery store and we sort our trash in almost incomprehensible ways.  Washington is very much a “nanny state” with all the best intentions.  And you know what happens with best intentions.  They often make things worse.

Take our obsession with recycling.   We’ve now demanded that folks in restaurants and fast food places sort our trash in such a complicated and strange way – garbage, recycle , and “compost”, that folks just give up and throw it all in the trash, or do it wrong which contaminates it so that it all goes in the trash.   For instance in Starbucks; is my cup “compostable”, but the lid  “trash”?  And what about the stir stick?   Eh, throw it all in the trash.   See what I mean?

Truth be told, one of the key reasons we all ride is the freedom it gives us.  The freedom to go where we want at the twist of a wrist, and a lean of the saddle.  We chafe at the nanny state mentality big time.  Well most of the time.   I often wonder why we as riders are all for Government butting out of our lives when it comes to telling us whether or not we have to ride with a helmet – and yet we turn around and ask that same Government to tell folks in cars they can’t talk and drive.   Common sense should tell us to do both – ride with a helmet and don’t talk on the phone and drive.  But people don’t have common sense so we ask the government to step in.  We resent it when Government tells us that our exhaust is too loud or what the chemical composition of our fuel must be – but we want that Government to tell drivers that they have to purchase insurance for their vehicles.

This constant tug of war plays out at all levels of society and with all groups.   One person’s “freedom” is another person’s “danger”.   It’s why Governments were instituted – to bring order to that dichotomy.  However, as time has passed we’ve all become a bit too reliant and turn to Government to solve all our problems and to legislate common sense rather than rely on personal responsibility.

Which is why the next several months are going to be so nerve wracking, and why I have to by huge bottles of Tums at Costco on a regular basis.  The session is just starting here, and it’s going to be a long 105 day one, with a new Governor, and a politically divided and volatile legislature.   What that means is that its going to be difficult to pass any legislation – good or bad.

At this time who knows what all is going to be thrown at the riding community.   As usual there will be a helmet law repeal bill.  As Richard Nixon (he was the President a few years back you may remember) used to say “ Let me make this perfectly clear”.  I support repeal of the helmet law, regardless of what some folks believe.   However, don’t confuse that with the fact that I also say “it’s not going to pass and it never will pass.” 

We also know there will be bills on allowing riders to proceed through malfunctioning traffic lights, as well as bills that will allow cities and counties to offer incentives to motorcycle commuters.   And there will be a bill to expand the “covered load” law in Washington, which, while not coming from the riding community, has garnered support from a segment of biker land.   These bills in particular have a good chance of passage and will go a long way towards making our roads much more pleasant to ride on. 

I really like the bill on load covering.   We’ve all been subject to being sandblasted and pelted with rocks coming off of dump trucks.  I’ve lost several wind shields in my Hummer, who’s vertical window surface seems to attract rocks like magnets.   And while it’s expensive in a car, it’s painful and very dangerous on a bike.   The bill mandates the use of load covers and prohibits piling loads up beyond the sideboards of dump trucks and pickup trucks.  We as riders should really, pardon the pun, “get behind” this one.

The folks in Olympia, as well as in Salem this year, will be at it well into the Spring.   We’ve got lots of time to push them to do some things that will help the riding community.  At the risk of repeating myself until I’m blue in the face.  GET INVOLVED IN YOUR RIDING GROUPS.   They welcome your support and participation.  

And maybe just maybe, we’ll get the nanny state to stop nannying us so much and go nag someone else.  

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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