On Tuesday, November 28, President Bill Clinton signed the National Highway
System Designation Act of 1995 (S.440) into law. Section 205, paragraph
(e) of S.440 repeals the Section 153 penalties on States without helmet
laws. This repeal relieves States of future penalties and also contains
a retroactive provision. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation negotiated inclusion
of the bill and report language that returns to the States control of funds
they were penalized for not passing helmet laws in 1995 and 1994
"This is a great day for the motorcyclists' rights movement. In less than four years, motorcyclists repealed the federal law that was the greatest threat to the freedom of motorcycling in 20 years," stated Wayne T. Curtin, MRF vice president of government relations. Commenting on the retroactive repeal, Curtin said, "Under the pressure of a quarter of a billion dollars of blackmail penalties, 25 State Legislatures stood up to the federal government for motorcyclists' freedom. We are very happy to tell the legislators and governors of those 25 States that the penalties for not having a helmet law is repealed and $200 million of those penalized funds are returned to their control."
In addition to repealing the Section 153 penalties, S.440 includes a provision that provides Maine and New Hampshire an exemption from being penalized for not having seat belt laws. S.440 also repeals the national maximum speed limit on December 8, 1995, but requires a study be conducted by the Secretary of Transportation on the costs of traffic accidents in any State that raises its speed limit. Off-road motorcyclists also received positive news; S.440 corrects the funding problem of the National Recreational Trails Act, ensuring that a total $30 million in funds will be provided for FY96 and FY97.
The conference committee on S.440 reached final agreement and filed their conference reported bill on Wednesday, November 15. (Ref. MRF News Release -11/15/95) On Friday, November 17, the U.S. Senate debated the conference reported version of S.440 for approximately three hours. Final passage of S.440 in the Senate came on a vote of 80 ayes to 16 nays. Three Senators did not vote and there is currently one vacancy in the Senate. On Saturday, November 18, the House of Representatives used less than three minutes of floor time to give final approval to S.440 on an unanimous consent request.
After final approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, S.440 went through the enrolling process, which is a final technical review and printing of the bill. The enrolled bill is printed on parchment and must first be signed by the Speaker of the House and by either the President of the Senate or President Pro Tempore of the Senate before being sent to the president for signing or veto. President Clinton officially received S.440 for his action on Friday, November 24, 1995 and signed into law on November 28,1995.
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