The Senate Transportation Committee voted down AB-244 Tuesday on a vote of 2-6 with 1 abstention. Voting Aye were Senators Monteith and Kelley. Against were Ayala, Boatright, Hayden, Johnston, Kopp and Russel, with Polonco [sic: Polanco] abstaining.
The committee testimony was long and emotional, with all the usual suspects. They were lined up in force against us, and even had Steve Lambert admitting now that he wasn't head injured, but representing himself as a cost to the State. One bright light was Shannon Laughy, who told the committee of her helmet-induced broken neck. I hate to characterize a horriffic injury as a bright light, but there weren't many.
One surprise was Richard Quigley appearing for the opposition. This caused some confusion to the panel, several of the Senators mistaking him for a biker due to the way he was dressed, and others thinking we stupid enough to use him as a ringer. Whatever their thoughts, Kopp played him like a trout, encouraging him to rant on with accusation after accusation, probably hoping Quigley would start seeing Black Helicopters next. Quigley left the room yelling, "Quintin [sic: Quentin] Kopp, I love you!" The bikers in the room were left feeling embarrassed and causing, I'm sure, at least one of our votes to go south on us just because of the display.
Earlier in the day, the possibility of amendments came up. One was a health insurance clause proposed by Senator Polonco [Polanco], another was a study proposed by Senator Ayala. An amendment that had been offered by us on Floyd's AB-7 of a registration fee was also discussed.
When the Senate Transportation Committee Meeting convened, there were only 4 of the 9 Senate Committee members present and since ABATE spoke first, much if not all of the arguments were unheard.
But... I have been told by our PAC Chairman that all the real "politicking" is done in the halls not at the actual meetings. If that is correct, and I have no reason to doubt him, then our 6 to 2 shut down speaks pretty loudly about our time and effectiveness in the halls and then Quigley's presentation would have had little effect at the actual meeting. If he was successful in turning around one vote, however, we still would have lost big time.
Interestingly, there are 266 words pertaining to the Senate Transportation Committee meeting in the PAC report (the actual report is longer and reports on other issues as well). In the Senate portion above, 110 words of the 266 words are devoted to Richard Quigley. For my membership dues, I'd rather have read about our efforts in Sacramento such as: how many Senators the PAC actually met with, the nature of each relationship and conversations, why did we only have 7 witnesses, where are we weak, what can be improved, the history of the catasrophic health insurance amendment that was presented by Senator Polanco at the last second, was this amendment supported by the PAC?, and since we were so badly beaten... what next. Frankly, Quigley's presentation and dress pale in comparison to other ABATE issues which were not mentioned at all.
Twenty-nine (29) witnesses spoke. Of those, only 7 were pro AB-244 against an overwhelming 22. Here is the list with credentials:
- Assemblyman Bill Morrow - Introduction.
- Paul Lax - ABATE of California
- Michael Osborn - ABATE of California
- Robert Rasor - American Motorcyclist Association
- Hye Weisman - California Motorcycle Dealers Association
- Jeff Rabe - Modified Motorcycle Association
- Shannon Laughy - Injured by helmet
- Stan Perez - California Highway Patrol
- Wendy Max - University of California San Francisco
- Corinne Peek - University of California Los Angeles
- Michael Hawkins - Kaiser Permanente
- Michael Maddock - California Medical Association
- Randy Chestnut - San Francisco General Hospital
- Jack Rozance - Kaiser Permanente
- Richard Woonacott - California Office of Traffic Safety
- Mike Sise - San Diego Mercy Hospital
- Steve Lambert - Quadrapleagic
- Dianne Colburn - Personal Insurance Federation of CA
- Mary Price - Lost her son
- Dana Pierce-Hedge - CA Dept of Health Services
- Susan Doyle - Automobile Club of Southern California
- Jerry Boone - California Federation of Women's Clubs
- Doris Muntz - California Transportation Safety Leaguers
- Margaret Schneider - American College of Emergency Physicians
- Joe Cindrich - NHTSA
- Jaime Guzman - CA Department of Mental Health
- Robert Terry - Witness
- Richard Quigley - HLDL/BOLT
- Dick Floyd - Former Assemblyman
- Bill Morrow - Closing arguments from the author of AB-244
Further, Senator Russell took issue with our position on the dangers we presented about helmets. His point was embarrassingly logical. While ABATE supports a full repeal of the helmet law, the political reality was that there is not enough legislative support for a full repeal now and there was more support (witness the win in the State Assembly) for a 21 and over bill. However, isn't there a flaw in the AB-244 argument? We point out the dangers of helmets and even had a woman (Shannon Laughy) testify that her helmet broke her neck. If you were a parent of a 19 year old, would you support AB-244?
I'm not convinced we were prepared for this hearing. Granted we can't pay for the testimonies as the Insurance Industry can, but 7 to 22 witnesses? And look at the opposition's witness credentials compared to ours! Talk about out flankedsYou mean there aren't a couple of doctors in all of California who ride or have seen neck trauma from helmets who would testify? Imagine yourself on the Committee. How would you not side with a barage of cops, doctors, university professors, mothers, health services, insurance reps, hospital personnel, the Auto Club and a host of volunteer community clubs for God sakes? We knew the Senate was not a favorable arena and the PAC showed up with out the proper defense, plain and simple!
Well, now that the current PAC and Board have taken 244 as far as we can, it's time to consider this point and our strategies overall. And given the in-fighting on the Board, it's also time to consider changing Board personnel as well. As with any political issue, there are many sides and you will no doubt hear them all. Keep your mind open, listen to the logical ones, the concrete ones will determine reality.
So we've hit a stone wall at the Senate. But the good news comes from Florida where... a Florida Court ruled their helmet law unconstitutional! For my money, I say let's take this battle to the courts! If less than half of the Senate Committee Members don't have enough respect to show up and hear our presentations from many who traveled from all over the state, then it's pretty obvious the game is fixed and we'll be trying to climb that wall for a long long time. But we can all start working the courts today to take out the helmet law for everyone. And you can do this both as individuals and as an organization.
As you consider your place in motorcycle rights, ABATE and importantly the Board leadership, consider carefully what you want, the direction you want and who you want to represent you. Above all, study the success and precedent set in Florida. This win was also the same scenario in the win in the State of Washington.