Lobbying Lawmakers at the Capitol

by Splatt the Harley Ratt State Capitol Sacramento , CA April 16, 2007

I’m happy to report that your “Right to Ride” still registers a faint heartbeat on the electrocardiogram. Lucky for us, the finest freedom fighters from the Golden State descended upon the state capitol to lobby the legislature on your behalf. The parking meters were bagged specifically for motorcycles and the capitol steps were reserved for the California Freedom and Motorcycle Awareness Month Rally, a multi-faceted event sponsored by the guys and gals fighting for your right to ride; ABATE of California.  ABATE is an acronym for the American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education, and it’s being forced to stand for a lot more than just helmets, these days.

Contrary to popular belief, that big white building on the Sacramento Delta is yours, and the people inside work for you. They sometimes forget who pays the electric bill and motorcyclists have been diligent to stop by every now and then to remind them we’re still here. We might be out riding most of the time, but we’re always keenly aware that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is dead-set on killing the air-cooled v-twin engine, if not the entire motorcycle industry. We know bans on lane splitting have been mentioned in the past year.  Red lights are malfunctioning all over the state while riders sit there and wait.  Loud pipe complaints are sky high and legislation is being authored around the country notifying the loud and proud that they’re no longer allowed. The “Motorcycles OK” signs in the carpool lanes have been abducted by aliens and there’s always that one sticking point in the state sponsored dress code for riders; the freedom to choose. You know, the helmet issue. Yeah, that came up too.

Parking for the event was free to motorcycles, but it came at a hefty price. A multitude of ABATE Locals and individual donors chipped in to “bag” enough meters to keep all the bikes tight against the capitol lawn. Robert Cuthbertson, recent recipient of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation’s “Young Activist Scholarship” devised a clever e-mail-athon campaign and raised enough money to pay for parking, thanking sponsors with a beautiful laminated sign on each meter. My personal gratitude goes to those who paid the price for my freedom, just to park.  Nothing says, “We’re HERE” better than surrounding the capitol with hundreds of motorcycles.

Chaplain Dave blessed the event with a poignant prayer and then handed the gig to Emcee Brad who kept it lively and full of energy. NY Myke led the Pledge of Allegiance, gave the crowd a few impassioned speeches, and thanked patch-holders and lifestyle riders for their undying support for freedom. Jean Hughes, ABATEPAC Chair, Legislative Director and long-time chief planner of this event thanked the throng of riders who keep coming, year after year, to defend freedom. Her incredible personal sacrifices for us are much appreciated.  Modified Motorcycle Association (MMA) Lobbyist Jeff Rabe thanked riders for their support and urged riders to meet their representatives.

ABATE Lobbyist Jim Lombardo presented an impressive list of legislators to speak to the crowd; Dennis Hollingsworth, Roger Niello, Anthony Adams, Martin Garrick, and Mike DuVall. DuVall impressed the crowd with his motorhead past, an alumnus of the motorcycle industry, showing himself as not only familiar with our issues, but also the proud owner of a shovel/pan mutation that only the old timers would know about.

Senator Jim Battin and Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia presented ABATE Executive Director Dave Hastings with a beautifully framed “May is Motorcycle Awareness Month in California” proclamation. The Senate Concurrent Resolution passed both houses successfully and gives riders added legitimacy when contacting the media to promote our motorcycle awareness month message; “Look Twice, Save a Life.” Battin and Garcia have long supported the riding community, and Garcia made mention of the many charity motorcycle runs she has attended in her district. Battin boasted of a photo on his wall from his very first election, “Outside my first campaign office, it was motorcycle row.” ABATE Safety and Awareness Program (ASAP) Chairman, Larry Pfaffly brought it all home for us, enlightening the masses of what ABATE is doing to heighten motorist awareness to motorcycles, unveiling a new website: www.mcsafe.org

And then there’s that pesky lid law.  A large number of us rode the “I Dressed Myself Today Ride” to the capitol wearing our own interpretations of “street legal headgear.” ABATE Local 25 President, Bulldog received a “golden ticket” for wearing a “Non-DOT” helmet. A misnomer if ever there was one. (The DOT doe NOT approve helmets.) It was no mistake that ABATE’s bill to modify the motorcycle helmet law, AB 425, authored by Assemblyman Anthony Adams was to be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee on this day. By intelligent design and masterful planning, as the rally on the capitol steps ended, that sea of black leather gingerly passed through the metal detectors to press the flesh with their elected representatives in the capitol, before the big committee vote. Get the next edition of Quick Throttle® Magazine for the results of that vote, or find an ABATE Local near you.

The newly embroidered ABATE emblem was emblazoned all over the capitol, and we’re beginning to see it on the byways and highways. If you see a rider wearing the new emblem on a vest or jacket, be sure to tell ‘em “thank you” for making the sacrifices necessary to keep riding alive in California, and ask ‘em for a membership form, too. For more information on motorcycle awareness month, or your ever-vanishing right to ride, please visit www.abate.org. The ride you save, just might be your own.

Splatt serves as Assistant State Director for ABATE of California . A Voting Member of ABATEPAC, he also sits on the ABATE Board of Directors. He rides 20,000 miles a year on the “Fisher-Price Deathmobile™” and devotes most of his time to fighting for your right to ride. For tips on how to make motorcycle awareness month a success in your community, click the motorcycle awareness month link on Splatt’s website at www.bikernation.net.  Also visit the newest additions to his rider’s rights repertoire, www.redlightbill.com and www.nolistnolaw.com.  If you just wanna ride, join Splatt and the nation’s freedom fighters for “Splatt’s Sunset Ride to Rushmore”, on Tuesday during Sturgis Bike Week.

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