Thursday, June 18th, was a GREAT day for the motorcycling community on Capitol Hill. The House Transportation and Infrastructure passed out of committee H.R. 2, the "Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act" or the "INVEST in America Act." This nearly 1,000-page bill includes four provisions that both protect motorcyclists and acknowledge our unique place in the transportation system. The legislation approved Thursday night would authorize highway, transit, and rail programs through fiscal year 2025.
Remember, this is just the first step in the Highway Bill Reauthorization process. The House of Representatives still need to take a final vote on the measure, and the Senate has yet to introduce their version of the bill. The House plans to bring this massive surface transportation bill to the floor for a vote on June 30, 2020. The deadline for Congress to act on a Highway Bill Reauthorization is September 30, 2020.
A special thanks to MRF members and SMRO’s who called and emailed their representatives to support these amendments. These victories in Washington D.C. would not be possible without the grassroots efforts of our members around the country. Your voices matter, and with your help, we can deliver more victories for motorcyclists.
The MRF would also like to thank our champions on the committee who worked during the hearing, and behind the scenes, to protect and advance the priorities of motorcyclists. While not an exhaustive list, the MRF would like to thank: Representatives Troy Balderson (OH-R), Sharice Davids (KS-D), Rodney Davis (IL-R), Pete DeFazio (OR-D), Mike Gallagher (WI-R), Sam Graves (MO-R), Jared Huffman (CA-D), Chris Pappas (NH-D), Donald Payne (NJ-D), Harley Rouda (CA-D), Pete Stauber (MN-R) and Don Young (AK-R).
Below is a brief summary of the bill and its amendments that address motorcyclists' issues.
Autonomous Vehicles- Congressman Troy Balderson (OH-R) introduced a two-part amendment focused on autonomous vehicles and motorcycles. The first part requires that when the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts safety studies on autonomous vehicles, the unique profile and characteristics of motorcycles and riders must be included in any study.
The second part ensures that a motorcycle safety group is included in the DOT working group on autonomous vehicle deployment. Motorcyclists need a seat at the table, so that our voices are heard.
Speaking on the topic, Congressman Balderson said,“As a rider, I have a unique perspective on how transportation issues affect the everyday lives of Ohioans. Our nation’s roads get us to where we need to go each day, yet they are crumbling at our feet. We need to make sure a broad infrastructure package addresses these needs and works for all Americans—not just some of us.”
The Balderson Amendment #21 PASSED UNANIMOUSLY and is now part of the final bill.
Checkpoints / Profiling– The provisions passed in the "Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act" known as the "FAST Act" in 2015 regarding motorcycle-only checkpoints were not changed in this bill. This means that states and local governments will continue to be prohibited from using federal funds to establish motorcycle-only checkpoints. This federal provision complements the nearly 20 states who have outlawed motorcycle-only checkpoints.
In addition to retaining the prohibition on funding motorcycle-only checkpoints, Congressman Balderson offered an amendment that would prohibit using federal funds to profile and stop motorcycle operators or passengers using, as a factor, the apparel they are wearing or their mode of transportation. This amendment is consistent with our anti-profiling resolution and would be an acknowledgment by Congress that motorcyclists should not be profiled because of what they wear or ride.
The Balderson Amendment #25 PASSED UNANIMOUSLY and is now part of the final bill.
Motorcyclist Advisory Council (MAC)- Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-R) introduced an amendment that would reestablish the Motorcyclist Advisory Council and create dedicated seats at the table for motorcycle rights groups and manufacturers. The MAC has existed for over a decade and allows federal policymakers, state highway officials and motorcyclists to discuss the unique demands of riding a motorcycle and how roads, bridges and other infrastructure can be built to better account for motorcyclists needs.
While speaking on behalf of his amendment, Congressman Gallagher said,“My amendment reauthorizes an important advisory council at DOT for the motorcycle community. Motorcycle usage has increased 25% since 2012 with nearly 9 million registered vehicles on the road. With this many motorcycles on the road, it is vital that this industry has a direct line of communication to the regulators.”
The Gallagher Amendment #116 PASSED UNANIMOUSLY and is now part of the final bill.
Safety Funds– The bill passed today by the House Transportation Committee would increase funds made available to states for motorcycle safety by $1,488,285. This is an increase in the program of approximately 35% over current funding levels. Under this bill, the total amount available to states in the next fiscal year would be $5,776,785.
MRF Vice President Jay Jackson commented,“Now more than ever, state rider education programs need this assistance to continue to offer quality programs to train motorcyclists.”
While we at the MRF are happy to see Congress increase the funding for state motorcycle programs, the increase in these funds only allocates approximately $0.67 per motorcyclist in the country. This is a good first step, but motorcycle safety isn’t something we should skimp on.