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Posts Tagged ‘Legislation’

Health_CareAs a motorcycle enthusiasts should we care about the Healthcare debate?  In a word, YES!

Looking in our rear view mirror, there is precedent for all of us to be concerned with in regards to any health care legislation coming out of Washington. For example in 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that was intended to ensure non-discrimination in health coverage in the group market. However, when it came to implementing the law, the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service and the Health Care Financing Administration – now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – issued a rule allowing insurers to deny health benefits for an otherwise covered injury that results from certain types of recreational activities, such as skiing, horseback riding, snowmobiling or motorcycling. Even though many motorcycle friendly organizations (ABATE, AMA, etc.,) have fought this discriminatory rule with legislation, it’s a clear indicator of what can happen if a new health care bill is implemented by bureaucrats in Washington using biased data.

More information can be obtained HERE on injury exclusions as each state has unique implementations.  In some cases state law compliments HIPAA.

Generically speaking, the most simple answer is for motorcycle enthusiasts to oppose any legislation that may come from the new healthcare debate which restricts the freedoms of riders who enjoy an active lifestyle.  We cannot allow our elected officials to abdicate the rights of the insured to an unelected commission or board, which will render final decisions regarding appropriate medical coverage for individuals who ride motorcycles as a mode of transportation or for recreation (e.g., denial of a procedure).

If this issue resonates with you, below is a form letter to mail to your state reps for reference:

[Your Name]
[Street Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

August 27, 2009

Note: In Oregon write to all three:

The Honorable Jeff Merkley
United States Senate
107 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3704

The Honorable Ron Wyden
United States Senate
223 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3703

The Honorable Kurt Schrader
House of Representatives
1419 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-3705

Re: Motorcyclists Express Concern with Health Care Debate

Dear Senator [NAME]:

As a constituent and riding enthusiast, I urge you not to include anything in the various health care bills that may adversely affect my ability to ride a motorcycle.  I am opposed to any legislation that may inhibit the freedoms of riders, including myself, from enjoying an active lifestyle.

I value personal freedom and responsibility when it comes to enjoying my passion for riding. As you continue your deliberations on health care reform, please do not abdicate the rights of the insured to an unelected commission or board which will render final decisions regarding medical coverage for those of us who ride as a mode of transportation or for recreation. Please ensure that I will continue to be able to pursue my chosen recreational pursuit without the addition of unneeded prohibitions, limitations or mandates stemming from the health care legislation under consideration.

Again, I urge you to protect my freedoms from being dictated to by an unelected commission or board in determining medical coverage for individuals who ride.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

We need to write our government representatives and voice our concerns regarding the various health care bills to ensure that motorcyclists can chose a recreational pursuit without the addition of unneeded limitations or mandates stemming from any health care legislation being considered.

Photo courtesy of Masscare.org

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Stimulus_PlanStimulus watching as a lifestyle is boring.  I’d rather be motorcycle riding, but none-the-less how our tax $$ get spent has reached the Northwest Harley Blog.

The blog theme isn’t changing.  There are lots of sources for stimulus-related blogging that serious government-watchers can find. However, coffee drinking colleagues down at ‘bucks’ started tracking stimulus as part of their retirement concerns and because I’ve put energy into promoting Vet’s and Veteran Motorcycle Association topics in the past, I wanted to forward this information.

Nobody does spending plans—complete with color-coded spreadsheets and embossed covers full of eagles and seals and other important looking symbols—like the U.S. military. Check this report out (.pdf).  The stimulus bill, by the way, became law on February 17, 2009. The Pentagon plan was released on March 20th, right on the deadline.

You may recall the Recovery Act includes approximately $7.4B in Defense-related appropriations, which accounts for less than 1% of the total $787B stimulus package.  In the stimulus bill, Congress allocated $2.3B in construction funds to the Department of Defense. The surprising part is what the specific provisions require: No war-fighting facilities, but rather the construction of “child development centers,” “warrior transition complexes,” hospitals, family housing, renewable-energy projects, and, in general, infrastructure for the Pentagon’s softer and earth-friendly side of the business.  In part, they are going to put soldiers and their families ahead of big-ticket technology—or at least on equal footing and the Department intends to spend this funding with unprecedented transparency and accountability. 

milcomapFor those with military experience you might agree that given all its failures to live up to soldiers and their families, and for all of its catch-22 double-speak, anyone who walks around inside the U.S. military quickly sees that it is one of the best-run bureaucracies in the federal system.  The website, www.Recovery.gov, is the main vehicle to provide everyone with the ability to monitor the progress of the recovery.  The DoD also has a website HERE, which links to Recovery.gov. 

The DoD intends to spend its funds as quickly as possible in the following categories:

  • $4.2 billion in Operation and Maintenance accounts to improve, repair, and modernize DoD facilities, including energy-related improvements  
  • $1.3 billion in military construction for hospitals  
  • $240 million in military construction for child development centers  
  • $100 million in military construction for warrior transition complexes  
  • $535 million for other military construction projects, such as housing for the troops and their families, energy conservation, and National Guard facilities 
  • $300 million to develop energy-efficient technologies  
  • $120 million for the Energy Conservation Investment Program (ECIP)  
  • $555 million for a temporary expansion of the Homeowner’s Assistance Program (HAP) benefits for private home sale losses of both DoD military and civilian personnel  
  • $15 million for DoD Inspector General oversight and audit of Recovery Act execution  

I did a quick scan (.pdf) for Northwest based projects and notice Camp Withycombe, OR will get a Storm Sewer MILCON upgrade and the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, WA will have a new Water Distribution System & Energy Conservation.  There are several other projects embedded into the document specific to the northwest if you have a desire for more detail.

Photo courtesy DoD and blogger Steve Coll.

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FreedomThe good news is that motorcyclists in Washington State survived another year of legislative damage.  John Davis of Northwest Cycle Report provides a post mortem blog of the Washington State legislative session.  Below is a brief sample:

HB 1403 (Addressing the detection of motorcycles and bicycles at vehicle-activated traffic control signals.) got caught up in the wrangling at cutoff in the house and did not see any floor action. This could have meant that we were going to be required to wait until next year to try to get SB 5387, the companion bill for HB 1403, brought into play in the senate. The lobbyist for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (BAW) went to work looking for a bill with traction, related to motorcycling or bicycling, that the traffic signal language could be appended to. He managed to find an innocuous (in his eyes) little technical correction bill that might work. Here is where it gets to be fun. The bill he found was SB 5482.”

“Texas” Larry Walker, the Government Relations Specialist in the Washington Road Riders Association provides the commentary and overview.  You can read more of the legislative details HERE.  I’ve found that Northwest Cycle Report goes to great lengths to provide informative and high quality information in their writing.  Check them out.

Photo courtesy WordPress Freedom theme.

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twitter_facesI’ve posted previously about social activism and how various motorcycle clubs have joined the social networking medium to convene and be heard on legislation which might be anti-motorcycle or anti-biker.

I predict there will be a new wave of protesters over the next year, called “flash activists,” who will use an arsenal of social-media tools — Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs and Wikis to organize hundreds — sometimes thousands — of people to gather at events and express their motorcycle enthusiast views or debate the constitutionality of un-friendly biker legislation.  No longer is social networking just for “pokes” or telling your friends what you had for breakfast.  It has become a virtual grass-roots movement and an effective communications tool to mobilize the motorcycle masses to effect change in politics and fundraising.

tweettoremindSpeaking of fundraising… I’d like to bring your attention to ReMIND.org.  You may remember a couple years ago that ABC journalist Bob Woodruff was nearly killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) in Taji, Iraq.  After an extensive recovery program Bob and his family had an opportunity to get to know many of our military injured heroes and their families. They soon realized their unique position allowed them to be a voice that could be heard in civilian and military cultures, across political lines and throughout our nation — a voice that could call for tangible support to assist our injured service members and their families. The Bob Woodruff Foundation was born.

On the social activism side, Tweet to ReMIND is about fundraising and through Twitter “tweets” they aim to raise $1.65M dollars by Memorial Day (May 25, 2009) and demonstrate the power of the social web. It’s an effort to ensure our military heroes return home with the assistance they need to successfully integrate back into society and more often than not, the injuries we can see are coupled with the injuries we cannot. 

ReMIND.org is a good cause and I hope you have an opportunity to look over the information.

Photo courtesy of Twitter

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H.W. "Sputnik" Strain

H.W. "Sputnik" Strain

The open air and miles of asphalt stretch out all across the U.S.  Bikers nationwide consider the open road a home away from home and the desire to explore is sometimes described as a spiritual calling.  To ride with the wind in your face and be free on the open road is like nothing else.

But, are we truly “free?”

Some in the motorcycle community believe we’ve sold our grandchildren into slavery to a totalitarian government by not being involved in the full spectrum of political debate.  One such person is H.W. (Bill) “Sputnik” Strain who founded in 1992 the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA2).  As State Chairman he describes its purpose as returning Texas to the Representative Republic as envisioned by those who founded the state and this nation. TMRA2 is a member driven association with a pledge to keep motorcycle citizens informed of the daily political happenings in the state and around the nation. They work tirelessly to introduce and pass Bills into law, that are favorable to Texas Citizens and to try and prevent bad Bills from becoming law.

Sputnik is a hard-boiled and fiery mohawked activist who is consider by many to be the Patrick Henry of bikers.  A well respected member of the NCOM Legislative Task Force who has been reasonably successful in his home state is now looking to go nationwide to help return our country to the Constitutional Republic as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

There is an excellent interview in the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies (IJMS) by Darilynn McClure which provides an insightful glimpse of the man behind the “Free” tattoo.

UPDATE: June 28, 2010 — Last Thursday (June 24, 2010) the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association announced that Sputnik, passed away suddenly at approximately 5:00 AM in the morning.  Sputnik was 70 years old and passed away in the associations state office.  He will go down in history as a great Motorcycle Rights Activist.  A memorial service is planned for July 10, 2010.

Photo courtesy of Hamilton Steele.

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ambulanceA couple years ago just after dusk several of us were returning to Las Vegas after a busy day in Laughlin, NV at the River Run.  Hwy 163 is a long windy road at night in the desert.  Black asphalt runs like a ribbon through the mountains near Pipe Springs Canyon where we came upon motorcycle pieces scattered all over the road. Flashing emergency lights blinded us and in the center divider was a white tarp covering someone’s remains.

I won’t speculate if the accident was the result of inexperience, poor judgement or equipment failure, but it was obvious the motorcyclist slid out on a curve and ended up in the wrong lane beneath a SUV.  It was a sobering reminder of riding risks and left a lasting impression.

Economic issues notwithstanding, motorcycle ownership is on the rise in Oregon.  The state has more than 131,200 registered motorcycles and scooters. That’s twice the number from 1999 and at an all-time high.  But what is alarming is that nearly 30% of the 14,268 people who received motorcycle licenses in 2008 hit the highways without going through a single motorcycle-safety course to learn basic skills, according to state statistics. 

I thought about that accident when today I learned there have been 6 motorcycle fatalities for 2009 as of April 10th and 5 were from the first two weekends of spring!  Three of these happened in the Portland area.  In the northwest the reality is that when the sun comes out, so do the motorcycles. And sometimes tragedy follows.

sb546According to police, inexperience, is the most-common cause of motorcycle fatalities.  It’s just not about motorcyclists losing control.  In past week 463 inspections were made in a truck driver operation. More than 1-in-10 vehicles and 20% of the drivers were placed out-of-service for equipment and driver-related safety violations at the southbound Interstate 5 Woodburn area.  Arrests/ticketing for everything from false urine test kits, possession of meth, marijuana, illegal handguns, suspended licenses and DUII.  These statistics are most worrisome and something to remember the next time you decide to throttle around a truck hoping they don’t reach for a breakfast burrito and run you over!  All this underscores a sobering reality that Oregon’s roads are dangerous.

And if the above truck driver information wasn’t enough of the dumb acting dumber… there is the Bend motorcyclist Anthony Suratt who was westbound on Hwy 126 riding his 2003 Suzuki motorcycle and clocked at 135mph on radar.  While trying to eluded police he failed to negotiate a sweeping right hand corner and crashed.  His jail mates will likely enjoy the “almost got away” story. 

Later this week the Salem legislators are considering SB 546 (.pdf) sponsored by Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) which directs the Department of Transportation to include on driver license examinations at least two questions pertaining to practices necessary for safe operation of a vehicle around motorcyclists.  I’m told this bill  also includes mandatory training provisions, but I couldn’t locate the actual text to confirm.  The bottom line is that motorcycle accident statistics suggest we need to be intellectually honest with ourselves… more and more of the most preventable hazards facing a motorcyclist is their own poor judgment.

Please beware and ever diligent as you ride.

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authority1Imagine for a moment you purchase a new Harley Iron 883.  Before pulling away from the dealer to enjoy a nice spring day ride you slip on a black leather riding vest with a large Harley-Davidson embroidered logo.  Near the bottom of the logo there is a Milwaukee, WI rocker.  Your buddies have similar vest’s and all head out.  Your pleased with the “patch” because it’s public evidence that you’re wearing colors of allegiance to the motorcycle company and it represents a new wind in the face lifestyle.  As your group rolls north up the I-5 corridor you take notice of WSP signaling you to pull over. 

The officer states that your biker “clothing” is a dress code affiliation typical of outlaw motorcycle “gangs” and as part of their early gang identification tactics your name, license number/plate is entered into a new gang watch-list database.

Impossible?  Think again.  Washington state legislators are set to pass an “anti-gang bill” that includes funds for police anti-gang taskforces, increased penalties for gang-related crimes and increased recruitment penalties.  The bill defines a gang as “an association of three or more individuals who share a symbol or name either formally or informally and who’s members participate in a crime.”   Basically a police officer can accuse you of belonging to a gang.  There is no burden of proof and if your name is put into the database you have no due process and there is no judicial overview.  There is no method to appeal – nothing!

What about abuse?  It’s likely.  For example here is a video of WSP taking license plate information from motorcyclists who visited the state capital.  And on a day specifically pre-arranged as the annual motorcycle rights lobbying day (see previous posts at: Giving Bikers A Voice and Expect The Unexpected).  It’s fair to say there is a crucial difference between motorcyclists participating in the democratic process to support motorcycle rights vs. being painted as criminal operatives engaged in a range of criminal activities only because they ride a motorcycle. Imagine the public outcry or media scrutiny if gay-marriage advocates rallied at the capital and WSP “stalked” around attendee vehicles for the purpose of entering licenses into a tracking database?!

Of course there is nothing funny about any of this.  The hard core criminally-committed motorcycle gangs, like street gangs, are primary conduits for the illicit drugs being pumped in the U.S. by the Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO).  The consequences of the smuggling can strike anywhere in America.  Undercover work is not a game.  It is an essential part of our national defense against this wave of plunder, violence and corruption. But, have WSP and state legislators reached a point of hysteria with regard to criminal street gangs to allow unchecked power to condemn any three motorcycle riders or riding club affiliation?  Is LE basically executing “color coded” profiling? 

I’m not sure, but I don’t approve of the Black Thursday tactics, I don’t like the potential for anti-gang abuse and I’m not resigned to this riding club suppression law.

Illustration courtesy Australian artist Eamo Donnelly.

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