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Bikers' Rights: Update on Discriminatory Motorcycle Seizure Legislation In Florida (HB 137)

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Update on Discriminatory Motorcycle Seizure
Legislation In Florida (HB 137)
Release Number 0035

Motorcycling Endurance Riders
Bikers Rights, Motorcyclists Rights, Long Distance Motorcycle Riding

From: Dara Mclain [mailto:macgs@comcast.net]
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2008 9:41 PM
To: 'IronBoltBruce'
Subject: HB 137 Hearing - Janury 10, 2008

COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE - HEARING FOR HOUSE BILL 137
JANUARY 10, 2008
HOUSE BUILDING, RM 404
TALLAHASSEE, FL

http://tinyurl.com/37opzm

Here's a recap from this morning's hearing on HB 137. All quotes are as I remember them, as I did not have a tape recorder with me. All internet links and email addresses are listed at the bottom of this message.

I arrived at 8:30AM for the hearing, which was to begin at 9:00AM. The room was empty except for the committee secretary, who was more than happy to accept my request to speak. Out of perhaps 75 seats, only 25 were filled by the time the meeting started.

Representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera...

[
carlos.lopez-cantera@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:
Suite 111
2300 Coral Way
Miami, FL 33145-3511
Phone: (305) 442-6877
]

...the author of this bill, gave his intro to the bill and stated that he had issued a "strike-through", meaning he had changed the wording, and the initial submission was no longer valid. However, all he changed was the speed limit offense to more than 50 miles per hour over the speed limit, up from 30mph. I was unaware of this change and therefore did not have a copy of this revised bill.

Mr. Lopez-Cantera then played a video created by a news team in Miami, on Sportbike riders pulling wheelies at high speed on public roadways. In the video, two tickets were given out. Riders were interviewed. Statements like, "it's like a drug to me, the need for speed," and, "I just pay the ticket, no big deal."

After the video, an officer from Miami spoke to the committee. Mostly he provided testimony on accident history. One in particular was about a woman who was killed in her SUV when a Sportbike rider slammed into her at a high rate of speed. His bike went through the driver's compartment. There was no mention of whether the woman violated his right-of-way. He spoke of how the woman's infant was not in the car seat, but underneath the passenger seat on the floor, gaining a considerable amount of sympathy from the committee.

Questions for him from the committee members presented the first indication of where this hearing would lead.

Representative Susan Bucher felt the drag racing laws already covered this issue and wanted to know if this current law excluded motorcycles. Mr. Lopez-Cantera did not know the answer and stated he had not researched that law. She clearly thought the bill was redundant with respect to speeding. She also wanted to know why they couldn't put a helmet law repeal into the whole package, as she feels helmets will save more lives, and is needed. She later stated that motorcyclists who did not wear helmets were just organ donors. Though she didn't like this bill, I didn't get any warm and fuzzies from her either.

Another Representative, Greg Evers, testified that he was dead set against this bill. He had received an email where the author described a scenario by which a motorcyclist could be arrested for erroneous reasons (by harassment or profiling). The author then stated at the end of the email, "I know all this, because I'm a cop". It struck a cord with him, Mr. Evers said. He seemed to grasp the entire concept of why this bill is so discriminating.

I was first up from the audience to speak in opposition to the bill. I presented my case from the standpoint that the bill was discriminatory, and that confiscation of private property was unconstitutional, and from a fairness standpoint as well (motorcyclists vs. all drivers). The bill, I said, should be written to include all drivers because, yes, I agreed, stiffer penalties are needed for reckless driving.

The first question I was asked was, do I think permanently confiscating a motorcycle is too harsh of a punishment. To which I said, yes, without a doubt, not when right-of-way violators, DUI offenders and other reckless driving, kills without equal punishment.

The second question asked was how would I propose stopping these stunt riders from violating speed laws. To which I replied, our tax money would be better spent finding a way to catch them. One suggestion made by Mr. Lopez-Cantera was to make it a high fine punishment for not having your license plate permanently affixed, so Sportbike riders could not take them off. This is how they get away; they can't later be identified by video.

I also said, I don't like it when they do this either, but it happens much less often than reckless driving of auto drivers, and shouldn't we work on making stiffer punishment for all reckless drivers, instead of singling out motorcycles?

I was also asked if I thought more graduated punishment would be acceptable, and I said yes it would, but only if the bill is written to include all motor vehicles, not just motorcycles.

Next up to speak was a representative from ABATE, who basically repeated all of the same points.

Last to speak was Winn Peeples, who represents motorcycle dealers in Florida. He also said that most of what he wanted to say, had already been covered, but added that dealers are also 100% opposed to this bill. He sited the revenue netted in Florida by the sale of motorcycles. Financing institutions would not finance a motorcycle in Florida if this bill passes.

I believe that Greg Evers approached Mr. Lopez-Cantera privately and offered to defer the bill, rather than kill it, if Lopez-Cantera would agree. I could not hear what was said, so this is purely speculation, but shortly after that private conversation, Evers approached the Chairman on the side, and the motion to vote on a deferment was issued. The committee favorably voted to defer the bill to a later date.

Final note: At first I was discouraged that I saw no local support from area Bikers. But Winn Peeples and I agreed that those of us who were there, was enough to work constructively in the time alotted, and push HB 137 back to the drawing board. That and Representative Greg Evers. Winn was there on behalf of Florida's dealers. I was there for myself, and for all of Florida's freedom fighters who couldn't be there.

SO WHAT NOW? IT'S ALL GOOD RIGHT?

Sorry. Let's be clear. This bill is NOT dead. And it *could* come up on the agenda again, though it is less likely to now than before, not without a rewrite. Below is a summary of each Representative and my perceived *opinion* of their position, based on what was heard today.

Representatives Richard Glorioso, Gary Aubuchon, Jimmy Patronis, Greg Evers and Nick Thomspon were all in favor of rewriting this bill to a broader degree; to include ALL motorists, and for stiffer penalties for reckless driving, but with graduated punishments employed. Nick Thompson initially wanted to kill the bill, as did Greg Evers. They all need to hear we support them and appreciate their proposed vision.

Representative Ed Hooper wants to see offending Sportbike riders punished severely but conceded that a graduated punishment was better than none. He could be pushed over to our side, maybe. He also had a personal "story" to tell about a death on a motorcycle.

Representative Scott Randolph was sympathetic to our position, but felt there was a need and agreed with a rewrite. He seems to be "on the fence". He needs to hear from us also.

Representative Susan Bucher I believe would have voted no, as she seemed to feel this bill was redundant, though she is no biker advocate. And though she bears watching, I believe she will not be a contender.

Representative Steve Precourt would have voted in favor of the bill as it stands. He needs to be inundated with emails and letters of opposition. He needs to see just how many of us vote here in Florida, and how many supporters there for our cause in this country.

Representative Michael Scionti was not present due to a recall back to active military duty.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

First order of business - send a thank you letter or email to Representative Greg Evers. What he did today was show 100% support in our favor. Let him know you were watching and waiting, and you appreciate his position. He was against "motorcycles only" and against the confiscation of personal property.

Second order of business - email or call the rest.

The opportunity to rewrite this bill to be a huge benefit to all motorcyclists and include all drivers is an enormous boon to come out of this. I have been asked to help draft the bill in the right way, for all. There is a lot of work left to be done here before anyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

There will be NO COMPROMISE on discriminatory wording, or confiscation. The bill will include all motorists or face strong opposition. Those on the committee who want to see this happen have stated their position clearly in favor of this. Still, don't let your guard down, don't fall back, hold the line.

COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE - All relevant documents are listed here:

http://tinyurl.com/2aqomf

Representative Richard  "Rich"  Glorioso - Chair 
rich.glorioso@myfloridahouse.gov 
District Office:  
Suite 204
110 W. Reynolds Street
Plant City, FL 33563-3379
Phone: (813) 757-9110 

Representative Gary Aubuchon
gary.aubuchon@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
Suite 305
3501 Del Prado Boulevard
Cape Coral, FL 33904-7223
Phone: (239) 344-4900 

Representative Susan Bucher
susan.bucher@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
Suite 102
2240 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard
West Palm Beach, FL 33409-3403
Phone: (561) 682-0156 

Representative Greg Evers
greg.evers@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
5224 Willing Street
Milton, FL 32570-4971
Phone: (850) 983-5550 

Representative Ed Hooper
ed.hooper@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
Suite 206
2963 Gulf to Bay Boulevard
Clearwater, FL 33759-4259
Phone: (727) 724-3000 

Representative Jimmy Patronis
jimmy.patronis@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
Suite A
455 Harrison Avenue
Panama City, FL 32401-2775
Phone: (850) 914-6300 

Representative Stephen L. Precourt
steve.precourt@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
310 South Dillard Street
Suite 400
Winter Garden, FL 34787-3515
Phone: (407) 814-6138 

Representative Scott Randolph
scott.randolph@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
Suite 100
701 East South Street
Orlando, FL 32801-2953
Phone: (407) 893-3084 

Representative Nicholas R. "Nick" Thompson 
nick.thompson@myfloridahouse.gov 
District Office:  
Suite 208
2120 Main Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901-3010
Phone: (239) 533-2411 

Representative Michael Scionti 
(not present at the hearing and will probably
not be involved with this bill in the future)
michael.scionti@myfloridahouse.gov
District Office:  
Suite 102
4221 North Himes Avenue
Tampa, FL 33607-6228
Phone: (813) 673-4674

Updates to follow as they occur.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dara McLain

###

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