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Bikers' Rights: The Rape of an ROWV Law (CO HB-1104)

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The Rape of an ROWV Law (CO HB-1104)
Release Number 0068

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

From: Dave Christy [mailto:djwestrider@earthlink.net]
Sent: Sunday, April 06, 2008 10:54 PM
To: IronBoltBruce
Subject: News Release: Colorado's Right-of-Way Bill (HB-1104) put down

Colorado Legislative Update: April 5, 2008

Wounded Right-of-Way (HB-1104) Bill Put Down

There's an old truth that states there's two things you don't want to see being made -- legislation and sausage. Many times, the two are indistinguishable from one another. Such is the case with House Bill 1104 "Aggravated Right-of-Way Offense", which sought to close a "gray area" in Colorado statute. The bill provided penalty-of-scale exposure to Rights-of-Way violators whose actions result in bodily injury or death to others -- on parity, harmonization, and congruency with the same outcomes as defined in the historical, existing language of the Careless Driving statutes. The current Right-of-Way laws in Colorado make no provision for bodily injury or death, therefore an offender who is charged with a ROW violation (even when injury or death occurs) generally pays a fine by mail and receives automatic plea bargained-down points (as little as one point) for the violation.

The bill was engineered with the intent of providing fair, equal policy for all road users. Designed primarily by citizens who understand the shortcomings of existing law through many years of research and review, the bill was requested by a motorcycle-riding House legislator who stated his wish to pursue ROW remedy. The team of pro-bill testifiers included motorists, motorcyclists and bicyclists (and their lobby) as well the formal, visible supporting testimonies from representatives of the District Attorneys' Council and the Sheriffs' Association. We knew we had served-up a prime T-bone steak bill.

Bewildering opposition to the bill came from the trucking industry, in the form of Mr. Greg Fulton (President of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association) who stated that he represented the CMCA and their members, he also stated the opposition of the Teamsters union; and Mr. Charles Bayley, representing Waste Management Inc. (a national and North American company.) Their testimonies basically stated that a truck driver could lose their job if convicted of a misdemeanor (no such law exists in Colorado.) In three formal committee hearings (they were afforded an extra hearing opportunity), at no time did they substantiate their claim or provide proof or statistics that truck drivers were more adversely at-risk, or how this could happen. (This is truly more of a matter between employee and employer, and not the state's business. If the driver has a chronic pattern of violations, the state DOR/DMV may consider suspension or revocation based on the points accumulation, or egregiousness of the offense, the same as other vehicle operators.) The outcome of all of the committee hearings was unanimous passage.

In spite of this, the trucking lobby had its' own version of how things should be: they wanted a simple fine for a "first" offense, in the amount of $400, as an "infraction" (a minor offense), even if someone else got killed. They lobbied and bullied for this behind the scenes, and they got it. The prime sponsor of the bill, without informing us, put this torpedo amendment in the bill on second reading on the House floor; it was passed out on third reading in that form to the Senate. Not only was the amendment an abomination, it was an illogical, unworkable attempt to 'fit' something into the statutory scheme to appease the truckers. In our subsequent meeting with our Senate sponsor Greg Brophy (himself a ROW victim), we agreed to strip the amendment out and restore the bill to its' original version. We accomplished this in committee, and the bill was sent to the senate floor. This time, the trucking lobby influenced a number of senators, with the conclusion that the same House-originated amendment was re-inserted to the bill -- this was done in a slap-in-the-face third reading and resulting final passage. Then the bill was sent back to the House for 'concurrence.'

It was at this point we knew the bill either had to go back to its' original form (highly unlikely) or pressure the House leadership to assist in its' demise. We focused on a number of rationales: 1) The bill never needed any "tinkering" at all, but we were not likely to restore it this late in the process. If the bill's prime sponsor wouldn't fight for a clean bill, who else would?
2) D.A.'s/judicial wouldn't support the bill in its amended form -- it goes against their traditional decision-making and discretion.
3) The legislature was essentially sanctioning - putting a $400 "price tag" in statute - for a life.
4) The governor would probably veto the bill in this form (he was a former prosecutor who understands the law); he would stand with the judicial branch
5) The bill was now "sausage"
6) Most importantly, we would never agree to support a $400 fine for the loss of a life in a Right-of-Way violation !!

We placed communications with the House leaders and other legislators to pressure a "kill" on the bill. The Assistant Majority Leader stated "At the request of the bill sponsor, I move the bill be laid over until May 8.." The majority voted for this action. Since the legislative session ends on May 7, the bill will receive no further action and is finished. This was done on April 1st -- April Fool's Day. How ironic.

You can view the bill and its' history at: www.leg.state.co.us

We thank all of the legislative team and testifiers; also, the American Motorcyclist Association and the folks who provided backside support. We also thank and commend Senator Greg Brophy for sponsoring the senate-side and his efforts in fighting a for a clean, unadulterated bill. Although we were not successful in this attempt, we come away knowing we had a great bill, were engaged in the legislative process with truth and integrity, and rode the high road...

Dave Christy
Colorado

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