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Not so long ago, on January 17, ABATE of Washington State had its annual Black Thursday group lobbying day at Olympia. We followed that by inviting representatives Brian Lange and Louise Bentley from ABATE to a Question and Answer session at Eagle Leather.
We talked with Brian today and he has a lot to share. If you wonder whether your phone call, email, or face-to-face meeting at your legislator’s office in Olympia or in your district makes a difference, the answer is a resounding yes. So few people bother to get involved that your voice is important. It doesn’t matter what party you belong to—legislators represent and listen to all the people in their districts. You can express your opinion and build relationships with your legislators when the legislature is in session or in the interim. To contact a legislator, go to http://leg.wa.gov/ to find your state senator and representative and their contact information and to get the official title of the bill or bills you want to talk about.
The key, Brian says, is to build a relationship with the legislator. Keep calm, be factual, and explain your position on the issue or issues. Does this work? It might take time, but it does work. Brian cites the example of Senator Christine Rolfes. Five years ago, she was opposed to helmet-choice. This year, she introduced a helmet-choice bill in the Senate.
Now let’s look at the issues of special concern to motorcycle users.
The Vulnerable User law applies to you as a motorcycle rider or as a pedestrian as well as to people riding bicycles or animals. Altogether, vulnerable users account for about forty percent of fatal accidents on Washington roads. ABATE would like to see the penalty for accidents involving vulnerable users raised from a traffic citation to a gross misdemeanor when the driver violated the law, for instance by speeding or distracted driving. This bill passed the House unanimously and is now in the Senate transportation committee.
The helmet choice program under which the state would conduct a study to see how allowing motorcyclists to choose whether or not wearing a helmet affects mortality rates is dead in this session. At Eagle Leather, we support the use of helmets, but ABATE just wants riders to be able to choose.
On the other hand, the motorcycle parking law stands a good chance of passing this year. Right now, parking anything but parallel to the curb is illegal, and some riders have been ticketed for it. Both the Senate and the House passed bills to make the way we always park legal. Now they must adjust the differences between them and send the bill to the governor. ABATE will issue a Call to Action when the bill returns to the House for another vote. We’ll announce that on the Eagle Leather Facebook page, so stay tuned.
The Q and A session at Eagle Leather was the first time ABATE Washington was hosted at such a gathering in a retail store. Brian told us that the event was such a success—thanks to our wonderful customers—that ABATE arranged for similar meetups in the Tri Cities and in Yakima, and those were also successful. Hey, we started a trend!
Brian asked us to remind you of the Mt. St. Helen’s Memorial Run on May 19 starting at 49 and I5 and following one of the best motorcycle runs in the state. See the Eagle Leather Ride Guide for details—and send your pix to the Facebook page.