The On-Again, Off-Again Colorado Helmet Bill
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 – 20:24BY TIM ANDERSON
In the span of ten December days, the idea of a mandatory motorcycle helmet bill in Colorado went from fiercely proposed, promised and defended, to being defiantly dropped by it’s sponsor
. The entire life cycle of this potential legislation took place with the 2015 legislative session about a month away.
The entire short saga is puzzling, and leaves many unanswered questions, but also left a motorcycling community galvanized against such legislation.
Colorado State Representative Paul Rosenthal (D-District 9) confirmed in a December 3, 2014, meeting with motorcycle rights activists that he would sponsor a bill to force helmet use by all motorcyclists in Colorado in the 2015 legislative session. Rumors of such action have been around since late summer, but nothing was confirmed until the December 3 meeting.
Then, on December 13, 2014, Rosenthal posted a statement announcing he would not immediately pursue the helmet bill.
The board of Directors of the Colorado Confederation of Clubs, US defenders, COIR, along with e the COC and AIM attorney met with Rosenthal at Poppies Restaurant just outside his house district for what has been described as a less than productive meeting.
“He (Rosenthal) wasn’t really interested in having any discussion with us,” said COC President, Diablo. “He made it clear nothing we could say would change is mind or sway his thinking. He said he knew that we would not change his mind, and that he could not change ours.”
When Rosenthal finally responded to a Scooter News request for comment on his helmet bill plans on December 11, he wrote in a short e-mail, “I am working on my bills at this time and will get back to you when they’re finalized. Feel free to contact me in early January.”
Just two days later, a post appeared on the “Stop the Colorado Helmet Bill” Facebook page, supposedly from Representative Rosenthal.
The post reads, “Despite the fact that a motorcycle helmet law would save lives, because I have more ideas than the allowed 5 bills, I have decided not to run the bill in 2015 and will continue to work to build a coalition to pass the bill in the future, thank you for your input.”
In a December 16,2014, email to South West Scooter News, Rosenthal confirmed that facebook posting. His message used identical language as the facebook post.
The Facebook page is the first step in mobilizing the motorcycling community to oppose Rosenthal’s—or any other—helmet legislation. The page gathered nearly 2000 likes in less than 48 hours, and has spawned unified opposition within the motorcycle community. A well-coordinated letter-writing campaign, along with other action, is being prepared to contest the helmet bill should it be introduced.
According to Diablo, it imperative the riding community comes together to fight Rosenthal’s helmet idea.
“This is the kind if thing that comes from ignorance,” Diablo said. “One of our board members characterized his remarks as ‘smarmy and condescending.’ This is the kind of legislation that we need to fight right from the start. The general feeling coming out of the meeting was that he (Rosenthal) wasn’t paying attention at all. He wasn’t even willing to even listen to us.”
According to Diablo, Rosenthal couldn’t–or wouldn’t–defend his views.
When reportedly asked if a constituent had asked him to carry such a bill, he said no. Rep. Rosenthal related to those present his motivation stems from a nephew of his in Minnesota having been in a motorcycle accident over the summer and was slowly recovering and having to go through a lot of physical therapy. However, according to Diablo, Rosenthal was vague about the nephew’s injuries, saying the family did not disclose them to him, so he did not know.
“We asked again why he would want to pass a law that none of his constituents asked for,” Diablo said. “He told us that it was his job as a legislator to think of ideas that would be good for his constituents and for Colorado. He also tried to get into balancing concerns between freedom and safety.
“He also said he had done his research and had talked to motorcyclists from other states who were fine with having to wear helmets. When we challenged him on that, he admitted that his contact was limited to a few people from California.”
In another conversation, Rosenthal’s knowledge of various agencies and departments that might be involved in any mandatory helmet initiative came into serious question Diablo said.
COC/AIM attorney Wade Eldridge queried Rosenthal about the use of statistics, and where they would come from. Using the phonetic abbreviation for NHSTA—National Highway Safety & Traffic Administration-essentially the federal highway authority, Eldridge asked Rosenthal, “If I could show you some ‘NITSA’ statistics that show your conclusions are wrong, would you be willing to take that into consideration?”
Rosenthal’s response was an emphatic, “No.” He elaborated by saying he would only look at federal statistics. Eldridge told him what NHTSA—NITSA–stands for, and that it is, in fact, the leading federal agency in these matters. Nonplussed, Rosenthal insisted that all of the federal statistics show that helmets save lives.
“We were all a little shocked at that one,” Diablo said. “In one sentence he disavowed federal research and said that was all he’d look at. It was kind of humorous and scary all at the same time. I guess we were incredulous at his response.”
Regardless of the alleged Facebook posting from Rosenthal claiming to back off the helmet issue, Colorado motorcycle activists are not relaxing. The Stop The Colorado Motorcycle Helmet Bill Facebook page is still active, and updating the situation as warranted.
“We really don’t trust that this guy has backed off at this point,” Diablo said. “So we’re moving ahead with our letter-writing campaign and determining other strategies and tactics in the event a helmet bill pops up somewhere. After all, Rosenthal did say he intends to ‘build a coalition.’ So who knows when that might happen?”
Further updates are available at www.scooternews.net, Scooter News on Facebook, and Stop the Colorado Helmet Bill on Facebook.
MOST Program stops funding motorcycle training in Colorado
The recent decision by the Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) staff to end the student subsidy for Basic Rider Course and Basic Rider Course2 courses will increase the tuition costs students pay to attend a motorcycle safety class when it includes the license waiver for the endorsement.
The MOST program is funded by fees paid by motorcyclists in Colorado whenever a motorcycle is titled at DMV and whenever a driver’s license is renewed to include the ‘m’ endorsement at DMV. The MOST Program was established by legislative statute as a way to make training accessible and affordable to riders in Colorado and reduce the number and severity of crashes and fatalities that occur when riders are not sufficiently skilled and safety conscious. I think the assumption was that if a rider receives training before getting the motorcycle endorsement, they will be more safety conscious.
Motorcyclists have paid to support the MOST Program and funds have been distributed by MOST Program to the training schools that provide basic training because the schools offer a tuition discount to students at the time of registration. Subsidy payments were determined by the number of students taught who completed the course and were paid after the courses were completed. Now that the subsidy will end as of December 31, 2015, the discounts will end. Motorcyclists who pay the fee to support the MOST program have not been consulted about whether they think it is a good idea to stop the subsidy.
Surveys conducted by MOST Program indicated that price was not the determining factor for students attending a course. MOST Program staff have determined that the funds will be used elsewhere. One thing appears certain; the price for motorcycle training to get the ‘m’ endorsement will increase throughout Colorado as a result of the decision to stop the subsidy for training and divert the funds to other projects.
According to MOST Program staff, funds collected will now be used to contract with an outside firm to administer the training in Colorado, hire experts to evaluate training programs, provide motorists and rider awareness campaigns and oversee the company contracted to administer the training.
What do you think about this decision to stop subsidizing training?
Are you aware that there was a student subsidy for the courses (BRC and BRC2) that earned a waiver for the endorsement?