I’ve been involved in legislative activity for some time now. I’ve been a registered lobbyist since 1996 and had done more than my share of “grassroots” lobbying for years prior to that. In fact, I served as a page for Senator Mike Gery in 1977. There are certainly people that have worked the Statehouse longer than me and I’ve talked to a lot of them. Pretty much everyone agrees, the 117th session of the Indiana General Assembly has been one of the strangest we can remember.
The short session this year looked as though it may pick up right where last year’s left off. There was a “mini-walkout” that only lasted a couple days and paled in comparison to the five weeks in 2011. The demonstrations by organized labor continued to bring large numbers to the Capitol and prompted some new procedures and threatened to limit the number of people allowed in the building. We won’t even get into the comments one legislator made concerning the Girl Scouts.
The decision to not have ABATE Day at the Statehouse in 2011 was made due to a large planned protest that came together a week or so before our scheduled day. Although there were a number of other people there, we conducted our grassroots lobbying event this year and had about 100 members show up. It was a productive day and legislators seemed genuinely pleased to see us. More than half of the offices were contacted and made aware of our position on issues of interest to motorcyclists. The activity was declared a success and we look forward to a more traditional event next year.
SB257 (Arnold - R) was a “clean up” bill from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Basically, this was to address a number of technical corrections and simple adjustments to existing laws. There were a few motorcycle related statutes affected and we worked closely with the BMV on this legislation. The language includes a limit on the number of times a motorcycle learners permit could be renewed and some revisions to waivers for licensers. Ordinarily, these things are pretty much a slam dunk, nothing terribly controversial and most everyone agrees with what are generally “logical fixes”. That was pretty much the case as it passed the Senate 50-0 and the House 84-11. Then some other subjects were added which complicated things and resulted in some of the conferees being replaced. In the end, we were holding our breath over what should have been a “no brainer”. It did indeed pass, but was one of the last bills to do so in the waning hours of the session.
Speaking of the closing moments of the session, it ended early but late. Leadership of both houses wanted to finish the calendar a few days ahead of the deadline. In an effort to do so, they remained in session on Friday night until about 1:38am on Saturday March 10th. Conference Committee reports were flying back and forth and a number of conferees were removed and replaced creating a fairly hectic environment. Keep in mind, this likely would have been much the same had the session lasted until midnight on Wednesday March 14th (the actual deadline).
We started working on HB1197 (M Smith - R) during the summer when we testified before the Interim Study Committee. I advised the members of the committee that ABATE of Indiana does not typically support regulatory acts. Furthermore, I stated that we were not looking to regulate or prohibit motorized bicycles, only seeking some accountability. We have been working on this with Representative Milo Smith for several years and also collaborated with the Evansville Police Department as they have had significant issues with “moped” crashes and thefts. While not a perfect bill, what we really want to find out is how many of these units there are. Registration would be a good first step. It passed the House and the Senate, but with Senate amendments, it did not have the votes to pass the House and was not called back to the floor. Many laws have taken years for passage so perhaps we can achieve some consistency and accountability for “mopeds” next session.
SB192 (Charbonneau - R) allows for the sale of motorcycles (but not automobiles) on Sunday. ABATE did not have a position on this as we have friends that are dealers and members on both sides and there did not appear to be a clear consensus. This bill did pass.
Undoubtedly the greatest victory bikers experienced this session was the defeat of SB137 (Zakas - R) which is similar to the California muffler stamp law. This would make criminals of many riders and really does nothing to address noise. We have seen this in a number of states after starting in Massachusetts and it probably isn’t over yet. This would virtually eliminate the ability to change to any after-market exhausts and would even be difficult to comply with many stock systems. For two years in a row, we have been successful in getting this killed in committee without so much as a hearing.
Given the choice between adding a new law that may offer some benefit or defeating a law that negatively impacts motorcycling, I’ll take the latter every time. All in all, we did just fine. There’s always next session.
There were some technical glitches with the ABATE Alerts this year and Marc Falsetti is working with our provider in an effort to resolve those issues. Thanks to everyone that participated in the process and remember how important it is to vote in the Primary.
Ride Safe, Ride Free,