The upcoming national elections are likely to be the most historic in recent memory. And given the hand-wringing, chad-counting and late-night punditry that accompanied the last few elections, that's saying something.
We are at a watershed moment in American politics. More importantly, we stand at a crossroads in American motorcycling politics that is likely to have far-reaching implications for riders well into the future.
Now, more than ever, it is critical that we remain engaged in the electoral process, advocate for our core issues and increase our efforts to expand the depth and breadth of motorcyclists' interests in the halls of Congress and across America.
Naturally, most of the bright lights have been shining recently on the presidential race. But given the nature of most motorcycling legislation--they're often small pieces of much larger bills--side-by-side comparisons of voting records aren't enough to gauge a presidential candidate's true position on motorcycling issues.
That's why it's important to remember that when it comes to riders' issues, the more significant battles are taking place in Congress.
All 435 members of the House of Representatives and a third of U.S. Senators are up for election. Why is this so important? Because it's in the halls of Congress that legislation is dreamed up crafted and voted on for the President to sign into law. And the upcoming 111th Congress is likely to weigh in on nearly every core issue of interest to American riders.
Among the most comprehensive pieces of legislation to be considered in the next four years will be the reauthorization of the federal highway bill. In play for this omnibus bill will be motorcycle safety and education programming, funding for offroad trail construction and maintenance, bridge and highway tolling, continued access to HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lanes, protections against intrusive government interventions, continuation of the Motorcyclist Advisory Council, and language to codify the need for including motorcycles in the development of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Moreover, the new Congress will be considering the application of public-private partnerships that may shape where, when and at what cost motorcycles are granted access to HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes and roads leased by our government to private, forprofi t entities.
Additionally, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will continue to conduct trail inventories and further develop motorized vehicle management plans that will ultimately affect where and how motorcyclists can ride. This is especially important as recreational riding opportunities are already under threat all over the country.
Health-insurance discrimination against motorcyclists will also likely be addressed.
If we are to succeed, we must marshal all the help we can get. That's why I encourage you to reach out to your federal offi ce candidates and fi nd out where they stand on the issues most important to you as a motorcyclist. (For contact information for your federally elected offi cials, visit the Rights page of www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com.) Also, don't forget to make your concerns known to your state and local candidates.
After the elections, the work really begins. That's why I'm proud to announce the expansion of your AMA's government relations department. As detailed on page 24 we will be adding personnel in our Washington, D.C., offi ce, and increasing our presence in other parts of the country. In addition, we're planning our annual "Ride Into Political Action" seminar February 21-24 in Washington D.C., where concerned motorcyclists from across the country will learn from AMA experts how to champion legislation that protects our riding rights.
Our goal is simple: we intend to represent AMA members more forcefully and effectively, and have more infl uence with the decision makers who affect riders' lives. We look forward to joining with our motorcycle community partners to face the challenges ahead.
Ed Moreland is the Vice President for Government Relations of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). Since 1924, the AMA has promoted and protected the motorcycling lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life and they navigate many different roads on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycle organization with nearly 300,000 members, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition events than any other organization in the world. Through its Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information visit http://www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com.
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