When I left Idaho it was 41 degrees. At 10 o’clock at night when I got off the airplane in Oklahoma City, the temperature was 92 degrees. It was so humid my eyeglasses fogged up. That was the only down part of the conference. It was everything I expected the conference to be and more. There were 30+ states represented (I lost track at 30), and the issues ranged from insurance problems, noise, riders education, intelligent systems and black box ownership to profiling, ethanol, autocycles and everything in between. Also, it became apparent that what was occurring in any given state could become an issue in any other state.
I arrived a day early so I could attend the various committee meetings of the MRF Board of Directors. It was enlightening to watch the inner-workings of the MRF. It is something that all members are entitled to do, but few are able to take advantage of the opportunity. There are many committees and all the committees are listed on the last page of the MRF Reports and is published every other month, all year long. It became evident very quickly that there is a very dedicated group of MRF freedom fighters who work their tails off for the love of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle while receiving little if any recognition. They serve at our, the member’s, pleasure and they do it for the freedoms we all enjoy. They have not forgotten the reason for the creation of SMRO’s and the MRF; to affect the formulation and passage of legislation which effects motorcycling and motorcyclists both on a state level and a federal level. They all deserve a huge THANK YOU.
The following day encompassed an 8 hour BOD meeting. It was at this meeting that the issues raised and business considered in the various committees was discussed and/or acted upon as necessary. I saw how the two days of meeting melded together under the leadership of the president, Kirk “Hardtail” Willard. I attended the Communications, Corporate Resume/Finance, Office and By-Laws committee meetings. I was nominated and accepted to the finance committee. I look forward to serving with all the enthusiasm and thoroughness that I saw expressed by each and every committee member.
The first general session Friday morning kicked off with opening comments by Hardtail. The MRF is in fine shape but we have our work cut out for us in 2017. Next, the treasurer, Frank Carbone, who agreed to serve another 2 year term, presented his message. While the new member count is lagging the membership retention is what is providing our financial strength. Through rigorous cost cutting we’re expected to finish the year in better financial condition than when the year started. The MRF office will relocate this next year to a new location just across the river from D.C. in Crystal City, VA. The move will ease commutes and save money for the MRF.
Our new VP of Governmental Relations, Megan Ekstrom, was introduced to the attendees. I can say unequivocally she is astute, full of great ideas and enthusiasm to carry the MRF forward with a focused vision and a bucket full of energy. She highlighted five recent focuses of the MRF. 1) The successful inclusion in the passage of the 5 year Federal Highway bill, the FAST ACT, to stop federal funding of motorcycle only checkpoints and 2) the re-establishment of the Motorcycle Advisory Council (MAC) and now we must insure the inclusion of SMRO members on the council. 3) To remove the EPA from the RPM act whereby it can regulate the modification of motorcycles to racing specifications. 4) Separate non-motorcycle fatality statistics from inclusion in the motorcycle fatality category within the Federal Accident Reporting System (FARS). 5) Establish a national conversation and eventual legislation to end the profiling of motorcycle riders. Currently HR831 starts this conversation with 11 co-sponsors. We need all congressmen to co-sponsor this resolution. (Call your congressman). Going forward we will look at lane sharing and lane splitting, highway barriers, toll road funding and ethanol expansion as it affects the availability of E-0 and E-10.
The session continued with the presentations of the legislative awards to various SMROs for their accomplishments at their respective state houses and MRFPAC awards to SMROs for using PAC funds and PAC contributions. Jay Jackson, the MRF Vice President presented a detailed history of motorcycle education in the U.S. from its inception to the current trend of different motorcycle curricula among various states. Jay mentioned that the three main providers of motorcycle education in Illinois have chosen to discontinue their efforts. Jay was elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA). (It might be noted that Sunshine Beer, the Director of the Idaho STAR Program, was elected to serve as the Chairman of this Executive Committee.)
I attended 4 breakout sessions over the course of two afternoons. The first was the Legislative planning session. This session is where the grassroots of the SMROs come into play. This is the meeting where each SMRO in attendance votes on whether to include items in the legislative agenda of the MRF. Not only the subject matter discussed but also the wordsmithing of the items. (The list was too detailed to take notes so I will publish the list when the MRF releases the official positions.)
The second session was the Executive Directors Town Hall meeting where Hardtail, Jay Jackson and Megan Ekstrom presented their thoughts, directions and goals as MRF leaders to the attendees. It shows us where their priorities fall within the framework of the MRF. It is because of these leadership skills they were elected to lead the MRF. In the coming months, provided the numbers work out, the MRF may possibly be able to provide a way to automatically track state and federal legislation by bill number and at the same time measure the effectiveness of our activism and lobbying activities of SMROs. This could relieve many of the SMROs of possible subscription expense and their own labor involved with manually tracking legislation.
The third session was the MRF Reps meeting. I attended on behalf of Kid Crawford, the Idaho Rep. In this session we elected two states’ representatives. Glenyce Jackson of Washington and “Big” Dave from Alaska were elected to represent the State Reps to the BOD. Also Doc D’ Errico was elected to the position of Director of the Rep’s Program to replace Dave Condon of Massachusetts who stepped down after 5 years as director. Dave is currently the director of the Massachusetts Motorcyclists Association.
Session 4 was “Effective Grassroots Lobbying” presented by Tiffany Cipoletti and Megan Ekstrom. The focus was lobbying and how effective it is. 97% of the elected officials say that hearing from their constituents affects how they vote. An interesting side note is that each form letter counts as one contact and if 100 of the same letter are sent then that’s 100 contacts by constituents. It’s the volume of the submittals not the content that counts. Also, according to the RAP Index, one phone call can affect the way legislators vote 11% of the time. Please follow through on your notices for call to action.
Last but not least, what would a discussion of motorcyclists’ legislative lobbying be without mentioning the BITB? The BIKERS in the BELTWAY (BITB) will be held in Washington DC a few days (May 22,23/2017) before Rolling Thunder. This is the national motorcyclists’ lobbying day similar to what various SMROs do at their statehouses. In Idaho we have two Senators and two congressmen. The event is in the planning stage and wouldn’t it be great if Idaho could be among those states lobbying the representatives in D.C. The Meeting of the Minds for 2017 will be held in Williamsburg, VA. on the third weekend of September.
Awards for Federal and State legislation, membership awards and State Rep awards were presented at the Saturday morning sessions. These were followed by presentations by David “Double D” Devereaux titled “Motorcyclist Profiling” and Matt Danielson “Know your rights at a traffic stop”. The profiling presentation highlighted the need to recruit all motorcyclists, both club patch holders and SMRO members in the fight against profiling on both the federal and the state level. The clubs have the manpower and the SMROs have the lobbying infrastructure and experience. A national database of profiling instances has been established. The high points of the traffic stop presentation were that you don’t have to say a word other than “no” to agree to a search. A stop is a detention and your rights under the constitution come into play and the courts are vague on some of these details. The road side is not the place to argue those points. Do that later with an attorney.
The days were long and crammed full of information. The evenings were just as long and filled with the passing of ideas and accomplishments, some goals and some bragging, eyeball to eyeball in the hallways and rooms of the hotel. This MOTM left the attendees energized and ready to carry back to their SMROs their ambitions, thoughts and desires for the coming year.
I would like to thank all the members of ABATE of North Idaho for the financial support to enable me to attend the MOTM and to represent them at the national stage. Hopefully I will be able to bring to each member and each chapter, if not direction then appropriate ideas on how to proceed to meeting our legislative goals for MORE MOTORCYCLING FREEDOMS.