Visit Washington in February or March

Get Motorcyclists ready Victory for 1997

Now that the elections are over it is time to plan for action in the first session of the 105th Congress. When we worked for the repeal of the federal penalties on states without helmet laws in the 104th Congress we were successful, in large part, because of the delegations that SMROs sent to Washington, D.C., in the first three months of 1995. From January to March over 350 motorcyclists from 37 states came to our nation s capital. Though the numbers were much smaller in 1996, several states sent delegations early in the 2nd session of the 104th Congress and the result was success in ending discrimination against motorcyclists in employer provided health care plans.

Well, 1997 will be another big year for motorcyclists in Washington, D.C. In 1997, Congress must pass another major highway funding bill. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 only funded federal-aid highway programs through September 30, 1997. So, in the 1st session of the 105th Congress a bill reauthorizing ISTEA must be passed.

This past September, Wayne Curtin, MRF vice president of government relations, testified before the House of Representatives surface transportation subcommittee and laid out most of the agenda for motorcyclists during the reauthorization of ISTEA. In addition to the number one priority of preventing any penalties on states without helmet laws from being re-imposed, the issues the MRF has set as items we would like to incorporate in the ISTEA reauthorization legislation are:

  1. Maintaining motorcycle safety as a national priority in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration s (NHTSA) Section 402 safety programs, but shifting emphasis to rider education and motorist awareness programs
  2. Setting accident prevention (vs. injury reduction) as NHTSA s priority
  3. Ending NHTSA s practice of advocating and lobbying for helmet laws in the state legislatures
  4. Calling for a Government Accounting Office audit of NHTSA s activities on the helmet law issue;
  5. Preventing future penalties and sanctions using federal-aid highway funds to force states to pass safety laws;
  6. Ensuring that any incentive grant programs for safety are performance based (i.e. reducing accidents and fatalities) not based on passing certain laws;
  7. Ensuring motorcycles are taken into account in traffic flow for the development and implementation of the Intelligent Transportation System
  8. Prohibit banning of motorcycles from any public road that uses federal funds for construction or maintenance. In addition, the American Motorcyclist Association will be working for funding of the Recreational Trails Act.

All in all, this is an aggressive agenda, but one that is achievable. However, to be successful we must have the same level of participation by the SMRO s in sending their delegations to Washington early in 1997 as we have had in the past. Unlike early 1995, Congress will not be in session much in January, only the 7th, 8th and 9th. Therefore, the MRF asks you to come to Washington in February and March. Congress will be in session the following dates: February 4-7, 11-13, 25-28, March 4-6, 11-14, 18-20.

Over the last eight years, since the MRF opened the first office ever in Washington, D.C., to represent the rights and interests of motorcyclists a lot has been accomplished: defeating the 10% withholding penalty on states without helmet laws in 1989 and 1990; getting Senator DeConcini to introduce superseding legislation to remove all references to motorcycles and motorcyclists in his Outlaw Street and Motorcycle Gang Control Act of 1991; getting provisions to designate motorcycle safety as a national priority in NHTSA Section 402 safety programs and to ensure motorcyclists had access to all HOV lanes nationally in the ISTEA legislation in 1991; though we could not completely kill the penalties being included in ISTEA in 1991, in order for our opposition to get a penalty on states without helmet laws they had to reduce that penalty from a 10% withholding of a state s federal-aid highway funds to a 3% transfer (reprogramming) that meant the states did not lose any funding; repeal of the federal Section 153 penalties on states without helmet laws included in the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995; and inclusion of provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that prohibits discrimination against motorcyclists in employer provided health care plans.

All of this has happened because the SMROs supported the work of the MRF and sent members to Washington to lobby for motorcyclists rights and interests. Continuing that tradition and following methods that have proven to be successful for motorcyclists will bring motorcyclists much success in 1997 as we deal with the reauthorization of ISTEA. We look forward to your SMRO s visit to our nation s capital in February or March of 1997.


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