Alerts and other info from the MRF
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RIDING FREE FROM DC:
Your Weekly Biker Bulletin from Inside the Beltway
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 – One Week & Several Pissing Matches Later….
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee okayed Paul Trombino's nomination to be top dog at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). He is going to be an important one for riders…the FHWA oversees policies that affect roadway design and other safety issues that impact our nation’s highways. His nomination vote was supposed to take place last week…but then a fight ensued between several Republican Senators and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt over the Renewable Fuel Standard…more on that in the section below.
Our anti-profiling legislation added another sponsor this week – Rep. John Katko from New York. I sat down with Rep. Katko’s Legislative Director recently. He reached out to me because the Congressman just got his endorsement and purchased a Road King. That’s right – we’ve added another Member of Congress to our “Reps Who Ride” List. The staffer told me that his boss is “ALL IN” when it comes to rider issues. And as an added bonus – he sits on the powerful Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
EXECUTIVE & REGULATORY UPDATES – RFS Concessions to the Corn States
Last week I reported that several Senators from the nation’s corn belt threatened EPA Head Scott Pruitt over what they felt was a lack of support (FYI – threatening someone in Washington is verrrrrrry different then threatening someone in the biker world – just so ya know). And in short order, Pruitt made some concessions, to the frustration of many including yours truly. After the shakedown (again a “Washington” shakedown…not a biker shakedown) Pruitt released a letter outlining a number steps the EPA intends to take on the Renewable Fuel Standard. This includes a commitment to finalize ethanol volumes by Nov 30 at levels equal to or greater than those in the proposed rule that was recently issued AND directed EPA staff to "actively explore" whether the agency has legal authority to grant a waiver allowing year-round sale of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol. About five seconds later, President Trump’s nominees to the EPA were SHOCKINGLY (not really) given the ‘okay’ from a Senate Committee.
In other news, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed what I wrote about last week – that an attempt to overhaul the tax code is taking priority over a major infrastructure package. She spoke at an event put on by the American Trucking Association earlier this week and said, “Infrastructure will not be taken up until tax reform has been completed.” So, there you have it. Hope you took my advice and didn’t hold your breath.
STATE NEWS – Fraudulent Documents & Motorcycle Endorsements in Indiana???
From ABATE of Indiana and MRF’s own Jay Jackson:
It has come to our attention that some Indiana residents have been caught up in a scam regarding documents necessary to obtain a motorcycle endorsement. ABATE of Indiana represents all Hoosier motorcyclists and is very concerned anytime one of us is harmed.
Although we have not been given details from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), it appears that someone has made copies of the state form used to issue a waiver for skills test and forged the signature of a former ABATE instructor. This unlawful act of greed casts an ugly and undeserved shadow on the instructor’s reputation, as well as that of ABATE of Indiana.
We have heard a number of stories from people that have been caught up in this situation. One admitted to giving “a guy in the bar $100” in exchange for the paper. Others advise that they attended a makeshift course and spent “a couple hours riding around cones” before receiving the document. Some claim to have paid as much as $350 for this “class”.
At some point, the BMV suspected something (perhaps a large number of waivers with the same instructor, date, etc...) and began to look closer at how some folks acquired their motorcycle endorsement. If the BMV was unable to confirm that the applicant had successfully completed a legitimate rider course, they suspended not only the motorcycle endorsement, but also the operator’s license, and in some cases the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), of the individual.
ABATE of Indiana’s rider education program began in 1979 and has had a contract with the state to provide courses every year since the inception of the state legislated program (that we lobbied to create in 1986), except 2017. This includes 2015 when we were required to sign a contract to be able to offer a waiver (for skills test) even though we received zero assistance from the state. Our students bore the entire expense in their tuition, and we had to spend about a quarter of a million dollars for motorcycles while the Bureau of Motor Vehicles chose to park hundreds of bikes outside in the snow and let them deteriorate, rather than allow us to use this equipment to train students.
Furthermore, misinformation from the BMV advised riders that the course offered by ABATE of Indiana was not valid for a waiver, when in fact, it was. This issue continued throughout the entire 2015 and 2016 training seasons, despite repeated pledges from the BMV to correct it. In 2017, inaccurate and incomplete information persists, as the BMV advises Hoosiers that “ABATE... (is) not an option”.
While the BMV’s repeated mis-information to riders is frustrating for us, the reason we provided this brief history is because it is even more frustrating to the motorcyclists of Indiana.
Up until 2015, information regarding rider courses was pretty clear and consistent. Unfortunately, there is currently a great deal of confusion confronting riders and seemingly nowhere to obtain correct, consistent, definitive answers. With 20 or so contractors offering training, and no single source for registration, it is difficult for those persons seeking training to understand what is going on and just what “is an option”.
We managed to get along for about 25 years without any sort of fraud, using a card printed on card stock in blue ink, with a watermark. We controlled the distribution of these cards from our office and limited the personnel that had access to them. The BMV introduced a new form just a few years ago that was simply black ink on white paper. We expressed concern regarding the security of this document from the beginning.
It certainly looks like there are some victims here. It sounds like some of these folks truly believed that they were participating in a legitimate training course and have now had their license suspended, significantly impacting their lives and livelihood.
If you have any information related to this situation, please reach out and contact the Indiana State Police, or call the ABATE office if you are more comfortable doing so. We want to get to the bottom of this in hopes that it may assist those that were victimized.
Ride Safe, Ride Free,
MRF NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
After a fairly depressing weekly bulletin, I wanted to end on a somewhat positive note?!
As you all know, the Motorcyclist Advisory Council (or MAC) has been a thorn in our side. We’re angry that they chose to only have ONE motorcycle association represented (which went to the AMA) and we are frustrated that the Council is instead made up of people who are there because of their expertise in things like roadway design, safety and construction. However, one of the people selected may in fact be one of our own. Joel Provenzano, a traffic engineering specialist from Florida, is a long-time rider and I’ve been told that he AND both of his parents are actively involved with ABATE of Florida and the motorcycle ministry. I was put into contact with Joel and he and I are going to meet in-person to discuss the MRF’s concerns and priorities regarding the MAC. We’ve also had some positive interactions with the AMA’s Mike Sayre who attended our Meeting of the Minds and who will be Chairing the MAC. With any luck, we’ll make sure our voice is heard…even if its unofficially for now.
Vice-President of Government Affairs & Public Relations
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. The MRF is chiefly concerned with issues at the national and international levels that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. The MRF is committed to being a national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle and works in conjunction with its partners to help educate elected officials and policymakers in Washington and beyond.
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