Victory in Congress
ISTEA/BESTEA Win Final Approval

(Editors note: The full text of HR 2400 is available below) On Friday, May 22, 1998 the House and Senate each passed by a large margin the final version of the Transportation Conference Committee report of the ISTEA reauthorization, now referred to as the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty First Century. Motorcyclists' Rights Activists gained major victories in the passage of this complex piece of legislation which includes (1) the NHTSA lobbying ban, (2) the prohibition of motorcycle bans on highways and roads using federal money, (3) changing NHTSA's mission statement to include "accident prevention", and (4) the inclusion of motorcycles in the development of Intelligent Transportation System.

Two years ago the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, (MRF) and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) set an agenda which would ensure a number of protections for motorcycling in this reauthorization bill. That "agenda" consisted of precisely the afore mentioned "victories". Steve Zimmer of the MRF said, "The passage of this legislation is the culmination of two years of combined effort of people all around the country. This has truly been a coast-to-coast effort on the part of motorcyclists who have traveled to Washington to tell their elected officials they want some protections put into the law. We wanted NHTSA to add accident prevention to their mission statement --- we got it. We wanted motorcycles to be included into the discussions and development of the Intelligent Transportation System --- we got it. We wanted some protection from motorcycles being banned from roads we pay taxes to build --- we got it. Last but not least, we wanted to stop NHTSA from using our tax dollars to come to our states and initiating and lobbying for legislation we opposed --- WE GOT IT! I'm very proud to have been a part of this effort. The motorcyclists' rights community can be proud as well, despite our many differences, we are successful when we work together.. I want to thank all those who worked behind the scenes writing letters, sending E-mails, and making phone calls. A special thank you goes to those who went the extra mile (or thousand) by coming to Washington to lobby Congress. Just as we saw in 1995, the perpetual presence of motorcyclists in the hallways and offices on Capitol Hill do make all the difference in the world between success or failure."

The MRF has been some what silent these past few weeks which has caused some concern on the part of many people, and rightly so. This silence was due to the position the Conference Committee took on release of information. Staffers and committee members were ordered to hold information until the final version was agreed to AND passed on the floors of the respective chambers. No one was getting any information out of the committee or the staff. NO ONE. Because the bill passed in the final hours before the Memorial Weekend recess, few still know the contents of the final version. We have included the text of the language posted on the Government Printing Office website. The MRF will have the full text of the legislation posted on our website as soon as possible at

Of huge significance is the fact that this act is the first transportation bill in 30 years that contains NO MANDATES, PENALTIES or SANCTIONS on states. There are no provisions to take money away from states for failure to enact specific state legislation. Those days ARE OVER! This marks a BIG change in the INSTITUTIONAL CULTURE of Congress and this committee specifically. Transportation Committee staff persons have verified that the Motorcyclists' Rights lobby is largely responsible for this change. That is what happened to the Senate version's provision to penalize states over the .08 BAC issue. The House Transportation Chairmen stood up and said his committee will NO LONGER FORCE MANDATES ON THE STATES!

The MRF would like to give a well deserved thank you to some very special legislators who's help on these issues has proven invaluable. The MRF would like to encourage motorcyclists every where to send a note of thanks to the following:
Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL), Bob Smith (R-NH), Phil Gramm (R-TX), and John Warner (R-VA).

Congressmen Bud Shuster (R-PA), Tom Petri (R-WI), Don Young (R-AK), W.J. 'Billy' Tauzin (R-LA), Nick Rahall II (D-WV), John Shimkus (R-IL), Tom Bliley (R-VA), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Bob Ney (R-OH).

These legislators were behind our efforts, make sure we get behind them at election time.

Below you will find the issues that we have actively pursued followed by the legislative language referenced by statutory section. The "legislative language" is followed by the Conference Committee "report language" which provides the legislative intent behind the statutory changes.

Issue #1: Banning NHTSA (and the rest of DOT) from lobbying state legislators:

Legislative Language
SEC. 7104. RESTRICTIONS ON LOBBYING ACTIVITIES. (a) Amendment.--Subchapter I of chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``Sec. 30105. Restriction on lobbying activities ``(a) In General.--No funds appropriated to the Secretary [of Transportation] shall be available for any activity specifically designed to urge a State or local legislator to favor or oppose the adoption of any specific legislative proposal pending before any State or local legislative body. ``(b) Appearance as Witness Not Barred.--Subsection (a) does not prohibit officers or employees of the United States from testifying before any State or local legislative body in response to the invitation of any member of that legislative body or a State executive office.''. (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of contents in subchapter I of chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``30105. Restriction on lobbying activities.''.

Report Language
Section 7104 prohibits the use of funds appropriated to NHTSA for the purpose of urging a State or local legislator to favor or oppose the adoption of any specific legislative proposal pending before any State or local legislature. Subsection (b) clarifies that officers or employees of the United States are not prohibited from testifying before any state or local legislature in response to the invitation of a member of such body or a State executive office. The provision is not intended to prohibit the Agency from informing State or local legislators about the prudence of a particular policy choice, but rather is intended to limit the Agency's ability to lobby a particular piece of legislation before a State or local legislature. Thus, under this provision, NHTSA could continue to testify before any State or local legislative body and inform State and local officials about the merits of a particular course of action.

A NHTSA official could even appear before a committee of a State legislature to testify that NHTSA believes that enactment of primary enforcement seat belt laws results in fewer highway fatalities. NHTSA could, in fact, testify that it favors general efforts to enact primary enforcement seat belt laws and opposes general efforts to repeal such laws. However, a NHTSA official could not, through the use of government resources, ask an individual State or local legislator, or any group of State or local legislators, to vote act on a particular pending measure.

Issue #2: Prohibiting the banning of motorcycles from public roads that use federal-aid highway funds:

Legislative Language
SEC. 1206. ACCESS OF MOTORCYCLES. Section 102 of title 23, United States Code, is amended by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c) and by inserting after subsection (a) the following: ``(b) Access of Motorcycles.--No State or political subdivision of a State may enact or enforce a law that applies only to motorcycles and the principal purpose of which is to restrict the access of motorcycles to any highway or portion of a highway for which Federal-aid highway funds have been utilized for planning, design, construction, or maintenance. Nothing in this subsection shall affect the authority of a State or political subdivision of a State to regulate motorcycles for safety.''.

Report Language
Senate bill- The Senate bill contains no comparable provision. House bill Section 135 specifies that State or local governments may not restrict access of motorcycles to any highway facility for which Federal-aid funds were used. Conference substitute The Conference adopts the House provision with modifications to clarify that this provision only applies to Federally-assisted highways open to traffic and will not override or affect the applicability of any local jurisdiction's safety laws.

Issue #3: Inclusion of the needs and concerns of motorcyclists in the Intelligent Transportation System (see item (a) (4)):

Legislative Language
SEC. 5203. GOALS AND PURPOSES. (a) Goals.--The goals of the intelligent transportation system program include-- (1) enhancement of surface transportation efficiency and facilitation of intermodalism and international trade to enable existing facilities to meet a significant portion of future transportation needs, including public access to employment, goods, and services, and to reduce regulatory, financial, and other transaction costs to public agencies and system users; (2) achievement of national transportation safety goals, including the enhancement of safe operation of motor vehicles and nonmotorized vehicles, with particular emphasis on decreasing the number and severity of collisions; (3) protection and enhancement of the natural environment and communities affected by surface transportation, with particular emphasis on assisting State and local governments to achieve national environmental goals; (4) accommodation of the needs of all users of surface transportation systems, including operators of commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles, and motorcycles, and including individuals with disabilities; and (5) improvement of the Nation's ability to respond to emergencies and natural disasters and enhancement of national defense mobility. (b) Purposes.--The Secretary shall implement activities under the intelligent system transportation program to, at a minimum-- (1) expedite, in both metropolitan and rural areas, deployment and integration of intelligent transportation systems for consumers of passenger and freight transportation; (2) ensure that Federal, State, and local transportation officials have adequate knowledge of intelligent transportation systems for full consideration in the transportation planning process; (3) improve regional cooperation and operations planning for effective intelligent transportation system deployment; (4) promote the innovative use of private resources; (5) develop a workforce capable of developing, operating, and maintaining intelligent transportation systems; and (6) complete deployment of Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks in a majority of States by September 30, 2003.

Report Language:
Goals and Purposes Senate amendment Section 521, 23 U.S.C., as proposed, sets forth the purposes of the ITS Act of 1997, which are--(1) to provide for accelerated deployment of proven technologies and concepts and increased Federal commitment to improving surface transportation safety, and (2) to expedite deployment and integration of basic ITS services for consumers of passenger and freight transportation across the nation. House bill Subsection 652(b) establishes the goals of the ITS program including enhanced efficiency of the transportation system; enhanced safety; enhancement of the environment; a program that includes all users; improved accessibility; the development of a technology base; improved ability to respond to national emergencies; and the promotion of data sharing. Conference substitute The Conference adopts a goals and purposes provision incorporating key concepts from both the House goals provision and Senate purposes provision. The substitute language identifies as goals of the ITS program the following objectives most of which were included in both bills: enhancement of surface transportation efficiency and facilitation of intermodalism and international trade; improvement of national transportation safety; protection and enhancement of the natural environment; accommodation of the needs of all surface transportation systems users; improved responsiveness to emergencies and natural disasters. The substitute language also identifies ITS program purposes representing objectives with a more short-term focus than the goals. The list of purposes, as follows: is drawn primarily from the purposes section in the Senate bill: to expedite deployment and integration of ITS; to ensure local transportation officials have adequate knowledge of ITS technologies for transportation planning and ITS operations and maintenance purposes; to improve regional cooperation; and to promote the use of private resources.

Issue #4: Changing NHTSA's charge on motorcycle safety.

Previously NHTSA was charged with reducing injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle accidents. This requires NHTSA to work on programs to prevent motorcycle accidents (i.e. rider ed, motorist awareness):

Legislative Language
SAFETY SEC. 2001. HIGHWAY SAFETY PROGRAMS. (a) Uniform Guidelines.--Section 402(a) of title 23, United States Code, is amended-- (1) in the fourth sentence by striking ``(4) to'' and inserting ``(4) to prevent accidents and'';

Report Language
sec. 2001. highway safety programs House bill Sec. 202. Highway Safety Programs. Subsection (a) amends the highway safety program to include uniform guidelines that prevent accidents. This subsection also makes a technical and conforming amendment to the highway safety program.

For more information, contact the Motorcycle Riders Foundation at (202) 546-0983 or by e-mail to

Here is the full text of HR2400 taken from the Congressional Record. There are 3 sections to the bill, each about 750 K in size, so please be patient while they download. Section 1, 2, 3 These files are in Acrobat (.pdf) format. If you need the free Adobe Acrobat viewer click here

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