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12/01/2016
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RIDING FREE FROM DC: Your Weekly Biker Bulletin from Inside the Beltway
Motorcycle Riders Foundation

 

Your Motorcycle Riders Foundation team in Washington, D.C. is pleased to provide our members with the latest information and updates on issues that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. Count on your MRF to keep you informed about a range of matters that are critical to the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle. Published weekly when the U.S. Congress is in session.

 

NEWS FROM THE HILL

 

Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other members of leadership have spent the last two weeks attempting to break an impasse over government funding as the September 30 budget deadline approached. Rumors of a government shutdown flew all over Washington this week until finally an agreement was reached to extend government funding until December 9. After reaching the compromise late this week, Congress ran for the exit, eager to get home and get in some stumping before the general election in 5 weeks. Though Washington has cleared out for now, there is already worry about what might get done when lawmakers return in mid-November. Expectations aren't high, especially given how difficult it was to pass a 2.5-month government funding bill. The fight will again be revisited as the short term solution runs out in December.

 

The other big newsworthy item echoing in the halls of the Capitol this week was the embarrassment felt by the White House when Congress overwhelmingly voted to override President Obama’s veto regarding lawsuits over the September 11, 2001 attacks to go forward against Saudi Arabia. This was the first override for President Obama and depicts to many in Washington that a working relationship between the White House and Congress never quite materialized over the course of the last several years.

 

EXECUTIVE & REGULATORY UPDATES

 

This week, an announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) was made regarding new tools for improving road safety reporting. Citing concerns over the rising numbers of crashes and fatalities, the announcement centered around the need to get the best information possible about how and where serious injuries occur and the need to direct resources to improve safety in those locations. The tools for improving road safety reporting included a national definition for serious injuries and the development of State Serious Injury Conversion Tables.

 

In the past, state transportation departments and law enforcement agencies have used varying definitions and different coding conventions to report serious injuries and its led to inconsistent reporting by the states and law enforcement which, in turn, resulted in poor data quality and hampered the ability to provide accurate analysis. 

 

The new definition is based upon the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC), and can be found at http://www.mmucc.us/ States are required to be compliant with the new serious injury definition by April 15, 2019.

 

In the meantime, by using DoT’s State Serious Injury Conversion Tables, state and local agencies not currently using the new national definition can convert and report their serious injury data in upcoming Highway Safety Improvement Plan reports and their Highway Safety Plans.

 

DoT is hopeful that, with these tools, state DOTs, state highway safety offices, highway safety officials, and law enforcement agencies can better identify the types of injuries they are seeing and where they are happening.

 

STATE SNAPSHOT – ILLINOIS

 

Illinois has been busy as they begin to wind down 2016, and gear up for 2017! They have been and will continue to focus on issues facing rider education, relationship building with key policymakers and ensuring a successful seminar scheduled for January!

 

Recently, ABATE of Illinois participated in a Ride with the Governor event on August 27. The event was a success as motorcyclists continue to build a positive working relationship with Governor Bruce Rauner. Having a motorcycle friendly Governor helps riders access leadership in the state and talk about issues that affect the community.

 

Those influential relationships will be key as Illinois continues to face issues concerning budgeting for rider training. Due to politics in the state, the budgeting process faced some hurdles this year and ultimately ended up affecting a number of areas normally not affected. Unfortunately, one of these was motorcycle rider education and training. This year, due to the budgeting issues, reimbursement for educational institutions that normally conducted rider education programs and training was not as straightforward as in years past. It resulted in some institutions and colleges backing out of the program, thereby limiting opportunities for rider education.

 

Knowing the criticality of these programs, ABATE of Illinois has been active in working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to attempt to find new partners in the Northern, Southern and Central regions of the state to ensure rider training continues to be available. Some of the funding issues have been solved temporarily with funding now likely through June of 2017, however there are concerns that this battle will be repeated when funding runs out in the summer; smack dab in the middle of riding season! Riders in Illinois will continue to remain vigilant as this process unfolds.

 

Legislatively, ABATE of Illinois has made ethanol a priority issue and they are pursuing creative ways to ensure the availability of E10 or lower fuel options for motorcycles. Specifically, the group has been reaching out to potential coalition partners including antique car clubs in hopes that a louder voice will help to educate lawmakers about the concerns over the proliferation of higher ethanol blends in the market and their effects on smaller engines.

 

ABATE of Illinois is also deep in the planning stages of their annual state seminar scheduled for January. This two-day event being held in Springfield will bring together riders from all over the state providing them opportunities to meet the Board of ABATE, as well as attend general and breakout sessions on legislative issues, safety and education and other key areas affecting bikers. At this year’s event, ABATE of Illinois hopes to ramp up an already existing relationship with motorcycle clubs, looping them into discussions on profiling and other areas where there is room to work together.

 

ELECTION NEWS – Republicans React and Gear Up for Lame Duck

 

Capitol Hill Republicans, many still very uneasy with a potential President Trump, are looking towards running mate Mike Pence as their saving grace. John McCain is one such example as a recent story circulated about him refusing to cooperate in an interview unless the subject matter avoided Donald Trump and instead focused on Mike Pence. Other Republicans have made comments suggesting they were forced to support Trump despite their personal misgivings on the nominee. However, there is a general sentiment of acceptance and support specifically for Vice-Presidential Candidate Mike Pence with a history of a positive working relationship.

 

In other Republican and election related news, after Congress passed the short term funding bill, the conversation turned to future leadership in the House of Representatives over the next two years. Republican leadership has held off on determining who from the party would serve what roles in the 115th Congress. This is of course assuming the Republicans maintain the majority post-election. The decision was made to make the determination after the election for good reason. Presumably, waiting until the end of the year will allow Paul Ryan and others in Republican leadership to pressure some in the party to support unpopular bills during the lame duck session. This process helps to weed out ‘defectors’ and allows for current Republican leadership to better determine who they will support for committee chairmanship and other key roles come January. 

 

MRF NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

A recent article ran in a popular D.C. publication featuring MRF champions and supporters; retiring Congressmen Reid Ribble (WI) and Scott Rigell (VA). The two are close friends and motorcycle buddies and in the article reflected on their time together in Congress, their enduring friendship and enthusiasm for Harleys. It was a bittersweet moment for many in the MRF knowing how much these two have done to advance and raise the voice of bikers in Washington. It will truly be a loss come December when they leave D.C. for good. Of course, we’re hopeful that their replacements will carry on their legacy as motorcycle champions – just this week Assemblyman Scott Taylor, who is the likely candidate to replace Rep. Rigell, participated in a motorcycle happy hour with the MRF and MRO reps from Virginia, as well as other big names in motorcycling around town.

 

Nonetheless, we’ll miss this dynamic duo and quotes like the one below which are truly a testament to each of these men being down to earth and our kind of people who don’t take themselves or anything too terribly seriously:

 

"Two or three days [after coming to Congress], I went and sat down next to him [Rigell], reintroduced myself and said, 'Do you have any idea what we're doing?" Ribble said. "Coming in as new members we had no idea what we were actually doing…but then we realized most of Congress doesn’t.”

 

Your Friend in Washington,

 

Megan Ekstrom
Vice-President of Government Affairs & Public Relations
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation

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