Motorcycle Riders Foundation
Report 1996 Legislative Agendas of the
25 States with Adult Helmet Laws
February 6, 1996
After passage of the repeal of the federal helmet law mandate on November 28, 1995, one of the most asked questions of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation office has been: "What's happening with repeal efforts in the 25 States with helmet laws?"
In an effort to better answer that question Carol Simpson undertook a project for the MRF to get answers from the state motorcyclists' rights organizations. What she found in those 25 States is a lot of legislative activity. So far this year, 12 States have introduced legislation to repeal or modify their helmet law to allow freedom of choice. Two others have bills to make helmet law violations a secondary offense. Of the other 11, four do not have sessions in 1996, and Louisiana only handles appropriations bills in 1996. A few of the other States hope to introduce bills later this year and others have made strategic decisions to wait until 1997 to introduce helmet law repeal or modification legislation.
This project began the week of January 22. All 25 states with adult helmet laws were contacted regarding their legislative agendas for 1996. In addition to the helmet law repeal and modification efforts, we found many other bills affecting motorcyclists. This information is also included in this report.
During her efforts to produce this report, Carol drew on many resources. She spent many hours on the phone with legislative coordinators for the various state motorcyclists' rights organizations. Tracey Powell of the American Motorcyclist Association's government relations department provided considerable research and background material and she double checked much of the information we received. Bill Bish of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists provided some phone numbers for new contacts and other information. Carol also received information from different state legislative services and leadership offices. And, the National Conference of State Legislatures provided information on the legislature session dates, which immediately follow the State names in this report.
The first draft of this report was presented to the MRF Board of Directors at their January 27 meeting. On February 3, MRF president Mark Buckner presented an updated version of this report at ABATE of Pennsylvania's annual legislative and leadership seminar. This version of the report was generated on February 6 for this issue of the MRF REPORTS. The nature of legislation is that it changes and action can happen quickly. Therefore, this report will continue to be updated daily. If you know of legislative action that has taken place not included in this report or other bills that should be covered please call the MRF office. Also, Carol's new task is to produce a similar report of legislative actions in the 25 States without helmet laws. Look for that report in your next issue of the MRF REPORTS.
Alabama. February 6 thru May 22. ABATE of Alabama is looking at options for introducing and moving a helmet modification bill exempting those 21 or older.
Arkansas. No session in 1996. ABATE of Arkansas is exploring the possibility of a special session that might hear a helmet modification bill. Working on campaigns.
California. January 3 thru September 1. AB 244, sponsored by Rep. Morrow, which would repeal the helmet law for those 21 or older, passed Assembly Transportation Committee on January 8, vote 9 ayes to 7 nays. It passed Assembly Appropriations Committee, on January 15, vote 11 ayes to 7 nays. AB 244 passed a Floor vote on January 25, 44 ayes to 31 nays. It will take a month or two after the Assembly floor vote for ABATE of California and the Modified Motorcycle Association of California to build sufficient support in Senate. Also, they are working to defeat Referendum Proposal # 200, a no fault insurance initiative on the March 26 ballot.
Florida. March 5 thru May 3. ABATE of Florida is soliciting answers in a survey of all legislators. Question #4 asks for support of helmet law modification to give freedom of choice to motorcyclists 21 or older. They intend to pre-file House and Senate bills in November for the 1997 session.
Georgia. January 8 thru March 15. HB 1230 passed the motor vehicles subcommittee unanimously, 4 to 0, on January 22. HB 1230 passed the full house motor vehicles committee on a 7 to 1 voice vote on January 23. The bill, as reported out of committee, gave freedom of choice to those 21 and older. It also contained a provision for rider education for those under 21. The Rules Committee chairman added a minor amendment concerning mopeds. During floor debate on January 30, an amendment was added that would require all applicants for new motorcycle licenses to complete a motorcycle rider education course. An amendment to strike the helmet law modification was defeated, as was an amendment that would have denied state assistance (Medicaid, etc.) to those injured and not wearing a helmet. The vote to pass HB 1230 was 83 ayes to 82 nays. However, in Georgia it takes a constitutional majority of 91 ayes, not just a simple majority of those voting, to pass a bill. On January 31, the sponsor of HB 1230, Rep. Powell, moved to reconsider the bill and won on a vote of 104 ayes to 38 nays. ABATE of Georgia is building more support for HB 1230 to ensure 91 votes. The reconsideration vote, where they must have 91 members of the Georgia House of Representatives vote aye, is expected in early February. SB 438 which would create handicapped and antique tags for motorcycles has passed the Senate and is awaiting House action.
Kentucky. January 1 thru April 12. A bill modifying the mandatory helmet law to apply to only those under age 21 will be introduced the week of February 5. KMA/KBA plans to work bill through the House first, then move same bill through Senate -- no companion bill. The House committee is expected to take action on the bill in late February. According to KMA/KBA, the Governor will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. They are working several other issues, including insurance discrimination; changing tag licensing to birth date instead of all in December when other taxes are due; handicapped tags for motorcycles; and monitoring health care reform package.
Louisiana. April 29 thru June 12. (Appropriations only in this short session.) ABATE of Louisiana is looking for support for helmet law modification bill. They want to add the phrase "under 18" to mandatory provision. They are also working on support for handicap tags. ABATE has made friends with the transportation committee staff on handicap tag issue. Membership is having great growth.
Massachusetts. January 3 thru July 31. A helmet modification bill has been filed in the House. It won't be printed until February, so no bill number is available. There will be hearings in April. The Department of Safety has made a commitment to urge "No" on repeal. There will be a State seminar on February 10 to educate and motivate Modified Motorcycle Association of Massachusetts members on supporting and working the issue.
Maryland. January 10 thru April 8. In the Senate, ABATE of Maryland is working to pass SB 334, which would change the law to require only those 17 and under to wear a helmet when riding on a motorcycle. In the House of Delegates there are two bills dealing with the helmet law. HB 978 is a companion bill to SB 334. HB 977 would exempt those 18 or older from wearing a helmet if they had completed a rider education course. They are also working on SB 84 which makes it legal in the entire state to park more than one motorcycle in a single parking space. This bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee with "do pass" recommendation. HB 96 authorizes the Motor Vehicle Administration to waive the road test for motorcyclists who have completed a rider education course. Also in the works is an anti-discrimination bill and a bill to make the funding for rider education more secure. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 334, February 6, a vote is expected by February 9.
Michigan. January 10 thru December 31. ABATE of Michigan is polling Senators to gauge the possibility of introducing a helmet law modification bill on the Senate side this year. A repeal bill failed in House in 1995. ABATE will only accept a Republican Senator on Transportation Committee as sponsor. There is active work to defeat HB 5000, which is a primary offense seat belt bill. Monitoring Transportation and Tourism committee hearings on graduated license system -- HB 4763. There is no motorcycle related language in this bill, yet. ABATE is gearing up for major Motorcycle Awareness program. They have met with AAA and they will help with program. ABATE is supporting HB 5123 -- raising speed limits. Polling candidates for elections.
Missouri. January 3 thru May 17. There will not be a helmet law modification bill filed this year. Freedom Of Road Riders is focusing on building an excellent legislature for 1997. There is a strong agenda for campaign work. Plans are to introduce 21 years and older freedom of choice bill in 1997. They are working on getting rider education program implemented. A bill with $1000 fine for helmet ticket has been introduced; FORR is vigorously opposing.
Mississippi. January 2 thru April 8. HB 819, which would modify the law to apply only to those under 21, was introduced on January 25. Rep. Nettles, the sponsor, noted on bill "by request" of Freight. HB 819 appears to have died in subcommittee because it was not passed out by a February 6 deadline. Shelley Johnson is the new legislative director for ABATE of Mississippi.
North Carolina. May 6 thru June 15. Drafting helmet modification bill. Expect Rep. Baker and Senator East to carry the bills, if the session is long enough for a successful outcome. This bill will modify helmet law to apply to those 18 and under. Some consideration is being given to some rider education legislation. Concerned Bikers Association of North Carolina is focusing efforts on researching the probability of passage of both issues.
Nebraska. January 3 thru April 1. LB 246, an equalization law making helmet law secondary offense, is a carry-over bill from 1995. The committee is expected to hold hearing and vote this session. ABATE of Nebraska is working for passage in "calendar bill" at end of session on full floor of unicameral legislature.
Nevada. No session in 1996. They are doing candidate questionnaire, then voters' guide. There will be a candidates' night in August. The Nevada Association of Concerned Motorcyclists and ABATE of Nevada are working towards a goal of veto proof support for helmet law modification bill in 1997.
New Jersey. January 9, 1996 thru January 8, 1997. New Jersey had to withdraw their bill from a house vote on January 4 in previous Assembly because of faltering support, after overwhelming wins in the Senate Committee and floor and House Committee. The repeal was reintroduced in the new session by Senator Kosco and the number is SB 440 (sound familiar?). The Senate Committee has already unanimously passed the bill and United ABATE of New Jersey is taking a breather to carefully garner support and plan strategy. More votes in a month or so.
New York. January 3, 1996 thru January 2, 1997. Two bills to give freedom of choice to riders 21 years of age or older have been introduced. Senator Johnson is sponsor of S 2165 and Assemblyman Parment is the sponsor of A 1224. ABATE of New York is working to unify New York motorcyclists to promote support for these bills. ABATE is also promoting rider funded rider education bills, A 5233 sponsored by Assemblyman Gantt and companion bill S 3113 sponsored by Senator Johnson.
Oregon. No regular session in 1996. Special session on light rail issues. Motorcyclists have been advised by supporters not to intrude on this session but to seek second special session, probably will wait until next year. In 1996 ABATE of Oregon's and BIKEPAC of Oregon's major focus is on working in the elections.
Pennsylvania. January 9 thru November 30. ABATE of Pennsylvania met with Governor Ridge in 1995 to build support for modification of helmet law. A full repeal bill, HB 1473, was introduced in April of 1995. Another House bill will be introduced by Representative Brown in February, which will exempt riders 21 or older from the mandate. SB 165 was introduced in January of 1995 and exempts riders 21 or older from the mandate if they have been licensed for two full years and have completed a rider education course. The plan is to schedule hearings and votes on bills to correspond with their Freedom Rally in May.
Tennessee. January 9 thru May 15. Identical bills to exempt motorcyclists 21 and older have been introduced, S 2427 sponsored by Senator Carter and HB 2421 sponsored by Reps. Burchett, Cole, Gunnells and Ford. CMT/ABATE has used letters of introduction from their members and supporters to gain support from legislators when the lobby team visits the hill. A preliminary hearing was held in Senate committee on January 30. House action is expected by mid-February. No votes have taken place to date.
Texas. No regular session in 1996. Texas Motorcycle Riders Association is focusing on Reality City for both the Democratic and Republican conventions. Democratic Convention, Dallas, June 7 and 8. Republican Convention, San Antonio, June 21 & 22. They will pre-file modification bills in both House and Senate in November for 1997.
Virginia. January 10 thru March 15. HB 1093 would amend Virginia Code to adopt Snell, ANSI or DOT standards for helmets. This bill was introduced at the request of Virginia State Police and has been referred to House Transportation Committee. ABATE of Virginia OPPOSES HB 1093. HB 1374 is a technical correction bill to help better fund rider education. Other amendments to increase designated fund will be offered. ABATE of Virginia supports HB 1374. ABATE firming up HOV motorcycle usage with follow-up bill, HB 353 and companion bill S 1. Both S 1 and HB 353 have passed their respective bodies and final action is expected once they decide which bill will be acted on for final passage.
Vermont. January 4 thru April 29. Freedom of the Road FOR Vermont reports S 37, which would reduce helmet law enforcement to secondary offense, is a carry-over bill from the 1995 session.
Washington. January 8 thru March 8. Have introduced HB 1408 and S 6259, a modification to exempt 21 and over from mandate. This session is too short for agenda to allow time for hearings and votes. ABATE of Washington and the Washington Riders Legislative Task Force are trying to make some progress with the Transportation Committee chairman in House. Senate committee chairman refuses to bring up S 6259 for a vote this session, effectively killing the bill for 1996. Motorcyclists across the state are gearing up to work election campaigns
West Virginia. January 10 thru March 9. West Virginia has 12 motorcycle related bills introduced in the House. HB 2009 eliminates tolls for motorcycles on the Turnpike. HB 2587 repeals the mandatory helmet law for those 18 and older except novice riders. HB 2594 removes lights on requirement. HB 2677 changes the assembled vehicle title requirements for motorcycles. The other bills all focus on the rider education program and may be rolled into one bill. ABATE of West Virginia has their hands full with trying to get their rider education program straightened out and functioning. 02/06/96
Thanks to the MRF for preparing and distributing this Report
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, incorporated in 1987, is a membership based national motorcyclists' rights organization headquartered in Washington D.C. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulations, motorcycling safety education, training, licensing and public awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists' rights organizations with direction and information to protect motorcyclists' rights and motorcycling. The MRF sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists' rights activists and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, THE MRF REPORTS. Voice: 202-546-0983, Fax: 202-546-0986, E-Mail: W T Curtin@aol.com, WWW Home Page: http://www.xmission.com/~mrf