A Democrat Controlled House?

Democrats are preparing for the possibility of regaining control of the House. There is currently a power struggle emerging over leadership positions. A heated battle over the Majority Whip position has developed between Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi. The two are lining up support with Democrat party power brokers across the country. Both are looking ahead to this summer's Democrat National Convention where they hope to bring political and monetary support to the table as a show of their ability to promote the party agenda as the House Majority Whip. Other discussions are occurring over potential leadership of influential committees including Appropriations, Judiciary, and Commerce Committees to name a few. Democrats are saying that this posturing is simply being prepared. Nearly 40 percent of the current Democrat Reps have come to office since the Democrats lost control of the House. Playing the “what if” game is one way to insure Democrats hit the ground running in January 2001, if they regain the majority.

A Little Help

The Ground Transportation Subcommittee recently held a hearing to review Department of Transportation (DOT) activity on the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty First Century, TEA-21. All the current administrators of the various transportation departments under the jurisdiction of the DOT filled a panel to answer questions about the state of implementation of the various provisions in TEA-21. As we approach the three-year mark since the passage of TEA-21 the subcommittee members, who are in the process of appropriations approval, wanted to get a status "snapshot." During the question and answer period, Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY) questioned the acting administrator, Rosalyn Millman, of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about a publication included in a packet provided to the Subcommittee members. The publication enumerated the effectiveness of .08 BAC laws. Congressman Sweeney asked Ms. Millman, "In light of the language in section 7104 Restrictions on Lobbying Activities, how is this publication not considered lobbying and there fore in violation of the section?" Ms. Millman replied that the brochure was an educational tool. The Congressman then asked if the brochure was an educational tool, why was the North Carolina study not included? The North Carolina study summarized that .08 BAC laws alone did little to reduce drunk driving. The Congressman then went on to say that an educational tool should include both sides of an argument in order to allow for a fair assessment. The hearing closed leaving members of the subcommittee the opportunity to submit additional questions to the panelists.

Following the hearing, the MRF contacted the Congressman's office to ask if he would submit additional questions related to the motorcycling issues contained in TEA-21. Those questions have been submitted and we await NHTSA's answers. We want to know what has been done to date regarding the change to NHTSA's mission statement. The mission statement was changed to include accident prevention as a higher priority over injury reduction. We want to know what requests for testimony and expenditures on lobbying activities have been made in view of the lobbying restrictions placed on the agency. We also want to know what the agency is doing to insure motorcycles are included in the development of the Intelligent Transportation Systems. The agency has approximately 4 weeks to reply to written questions.

McCain is back on the Hill

Arizona Senator John McCain has put his presidential campaign on hold, and following a week of vacation in Tahiti, he has returned to the Senate ready to get back to work. At the Senator’s request, his return will have little pomp but others expect he will have a newly found authority and political presence. Republican Pparty movers and shakers see McCain as the person the party will call on to use his new found national constituency to aid the party in the races where GOP has serious challenges this fall. While the Senator was on the campaign trail, his senate duties have been somewhat neglected. The Senate Commerce Committee has not held a hearing since the primary campaigns began. As chairman, McCain has not been there to call the hearings. The Commerce Committee has oversight of the budgetary appropriations for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Trouble with the Gas Tax?

Just when you think you have seen it all, something new comes along. When you know it cannot get much worse, it does. Farmers and consumers had better take heed on this one. Nations that ratify the Kyoto Treaty, which is designed to protect the world’s ecology, are supposed to reduce greenhouse gasses. Australia has studied the problem down under and concluded that cattle generate methane and carbon dioxide, two gases targeted for reduction. According to the Australian Greenhouse Office, domestic cattle produce approximately 58 million tons of greenhouse gases per year or two tons per animal. The Australian government has a plan to tax farmers $10-$30 per ton of gas that their herds produce. This additional tax would add $20-$60 a year in annual production costs. If this tax passes the cost of hamburgers will definitely be going up!

Follow up on OSHA

In the last MRF DC, we reported that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) had released a plan to inspect the homes of employees that telecommute or work at home for safety violations. You may remember that this met with some resistance before the House Education and Workforce Oversight Sub-committee. The Labor Department promised they would look into the proposed new rule. They have since issued a statement that it “will not hold companies responsible for the safety of telecommuting employees' home offices,” according to the Associated Press. The new "directive" says the government will not inspect employees' home offices, expect employers to inspect them, or hold companies liable for “home office” safety conditions. OSHA may forward to employers, any complaints received from workers about home office safety.

The CATO Institute’s “Handbook for Congress” and some members of Congress are calling for abolishing OSHA or at least severely limiting it’s authority. For now, the new directive will bar OHSA from coming into your home to inspect for unsafe conditions.

It’s in the Genes

According to a Boston Globe article, New York Governor George Pataki has proposed legislation that would require persons convicted of most misdemeanors to submit a genetic sample to a statewide database. If enacted, the number of samples submitted would increase over five times the number of samples currently collected from felons in the state, to approximately 96,000. The governor seems to think that everyone who commits even a minor crime should be entered into the state database.

Big Brother is here. Government maintained databases utilizing DNA raise questions of privacy. What could the government do with databases like this: Tracking deadbeat parents is one idea being circulated. Could the insurance industry use such information to screen health problems? Is this information that would warrant the government’s involvement over a misdemeanor violation? Could forfeiture of a sample eventually be required for traffic violations. Once government possesses the database and the technology, would sampling be as routine as to be part of a birth certificate? So many questions-so little trust of government.

Uninsured Remains Constant

In a recent report about uninsured Americans from Paul Fronstin at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, it has been learned that the number of uninsured has increased over the last few years. The increase, however, coincides with the increase in overall population so the percentage of uninsured only raised one tenth of one percent proportionately. The institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that has reviewed several of the legislative proposals to reduce the number of uninsured. "I don't think any of the proposals out there will have an impact," said Fronstin.

Five million children are eligible for the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, but are not enrolled. "They can’t give it away, and it's free," he said. Fronstin went on to say that economists are also looking at the relationship between productivity and insurance coverage. Finding that production is tied to healthcare coverage is good news for motorcyclists. The more employers find that providing health coverage to employees adds to the bottom line, the more motorcyclists will be insured. With low unemployment, more employers are offering benefits, such as health insurance, to retain and recruit workers. This should also help eliminate the “social burden” myth.

Another Green Answer to the Energy Problem

The Clinton/Gore administration continues to press for a self-sufficient America, relying less on fossil fuels and more on renewable sources of energy. President Clinton recently signed two Executive Orders to increase research and accelerate 21st century technologies that can convert crops, trees, and other "bio-mass" into a vast array of fuels and products. The EO also sets a goal of tripling the use of “bio-products and bio-energy” by the year 2010. If this goal is reached, it is estimated it would create $15 billion to $20 billion in new income through high-tech jobs and economic opportunities for farmers and many rural communities. Projections also show reductions of annual greenhouse gas emissions, which supposedly contribute to global warming, by up to 100 million tons the equivalent of taking more than 70 million cars off the road. This should allow us to cut back on the almost 4 billion barrels of oil we are projected to import in 2010. An additional part of the Executive Orders creates a bill requiring that 7.5 percent of all U.S. electricity come from renewable resources by 2010. The order instructs federal agencies to make use of bio-based products; proposes new tax credits for bio-based electricity production; and increases research funding for federal agencies.

Motorcycles are currently considered to be “recreational vehicles.” Motorcycling activists should be promoting motorcycles as an alternative means of transportation rather than accepting the current definition. Motorcycles should be considered a valuable element of the plan to reduce dependency on foreign oil, but it is up to us make this change. In light of the current rise in gasoline prices around the country, the time is now for that redefinition. The current administration and the Gore campaign have a primary objective to protect the environment; if motorcyclists are not part of the process of defining our value in this objective, we may someday spend our time admiring wonderful displays of motorcycles at the Smithsonian.

MRF DC will be back soon with more news from our nation’s capital. Anyone with an e-mail address can receive MRF DC. Simply send a request to MRF-NEWS.org and they will be added to our list. I hope you've found the information contained in MRF DC useful. If you appreciate the work MRF is doing in our nation's capitol, please help us to remain a strong voice for all motorcyclists by becoming a member. You can join online at the MRF website <http://www.mrf.org>, or contact Bev Waters at 202-546-0983 in our Washington office and she'll be happy to send you an application.

© All information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, incorporated in 1987, is a membership based national motorcyclists' rights organization headquartered in Washington D.C. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulations, motorcycling safety education, training, licensing and public awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists' rights organizations with direction and information to protect motorcyclists' rights and motorcycling. The MRF sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists' rights activists and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, THE MRF REPORTS. Voice: 202-546-0983, Fax: 202-546-0986, E-Mail: steve@mrf.org, website: <http://www.mrf.org/>

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