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  • DC Insider: Federal agency expands authority from fighting diseases to studying how Americans use our highways

    Alongside the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is a relatively new player looking at motorcycle safety on our roads and highways.

    It is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Why the CDC? How is riding a motorcycle even in the CDC’s crosshairs? Is the CDC attempting to say that riding is a disease?

    How is this possible? What is the CDC’s agenda?

    The American Motorcyclist Association is asking these questions and may have found some answers.

    The CDC came onto the AMA radar back in June 2012 with its release claiming that annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater (per registered motorcycle) than in states without universal helmet laws. It is no secret that the CDC wants more states to adopt mandatory helmet laws.

    Then, it was the CDC’s February 2013 Federal Register notice on its proposed project titled “Costs and Cost Savings of Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention: Evidence-Based Policy and Behavioral Interventions.”

    The AMA wanted the CDC to address our concerns with the proposed project’s goal to “collect information relating to the costs of implementing motor vehicle injury prevention interventions” to get— in their own words -- the “biggest bang for the buck.”

    We learned that the CDC study would focus on 13 “interventions.” One is “motorcycle helmet use laws.”

    Then the CDC struck again.

    At its meeting in October 2013, the Community Preventive Services Task Force viewed a CDC staff-prepared presentation about the benefits of universal helmet laws. One of the slides links the adoption of universal helmet-use laws to a potential reduction in motorcycle riding, which would help meet the CDC’s goal to reduce injuries and fatalities.

    Let me say that again: One of the CDC’s desired outcomes is the potential for reduced motorcycle use. (The task force had previously approved a recommendation for universal motorcycle helmet laws at its meeting in June 2013.)

    The AMA questions the expertise and authority of the CDC and its task force in the traffic safety arena. Motorcycling is not a disease to be cured; it is a legal and legitimate means of transportation and recreation enjoyed by an estimated 11 million Americans.

    U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) shared the AMA’s concern and sent a letter to the CDC on Nov. 21, 2013. In particular, Walberg wanted to know how the CDC has the authority to study highway safety.

    The CDC responded by saying its authority is congressionally mandated.

    Congressionally mandated?

    This stimulated  investigative juices at the AMA. After months of research, the AMA discovered that the CDC’s authority comes from Section 399U of the Public Health Service Act. This is odd, because the PHS Act has been around for years.

    Is Section 399U new and how did it amend the PHS Act?

    Yes, the section is new. It was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. It increased the CDC’s authority and gave it a congressional mandate to study highway safety, among other things. Specifically, Section 4003(b)(1) of the ACA amended the PHS Act to include Section 399U.

    How does Section 399U expand the authority of the CDC’s Task Force?

    It expands the role of the Community Preventive Services Task Force by “… providing yearly reports to Congress and related agencies identifying gaps in research and recommending priority areas that deserve further examination, including areas related to populations and age groups not adequately addressed by current recommendations” (ACA, § 4003(b)(1); PHS Act § 399U(b)(6)) (ACA pages 425-426).

    It also provides authority to the task force to study any area or topic it chooses. Under Section 399U, “Community preventive services include any policies, programs, processes or activities designed to affect or otherwise affecting health at the population level” (Emphasis added) (ACA, § 4003(b)(1); PHS Act § 399U(a) (ACA pages 425-426).

    Although we can’t all agree on the validity of mandated helmet laws, I am sure we all can agree that this is blatant government overreach that can affect all our lives by administrative fiat.

    This is how a federal agency once tasked to curing the world’s diseases is now studying our nation’s highways – and, for that matter, anything else it chooses.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Responsibly enjoying AND conserving America’s public lands

    Recently, the American Motorcyclist Association started the “Public Lands Should Have a Public Voice” campaign to urge lawmakers and the president to consider local input when designating new land as a National Monument or as Wilderness.

    This campaign is in response to the president’s threat to declare National Monuments in several areas that are prime off-highway-vehicle riding areas.

    The Antiquities Act of 1906 (16 USC 431-432) gives the president the authority to:

    “declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” (emphasis added)

    The act’s original intent was to grant the president the power to prevent the looting of cultural artifacts, mostly in the Southwest. This law was the result of the realization that Congress could not act fast enough to protect archeological ruins from being looted.

    Today, the law is interpreted in a far broader manner. This gives the executive branch the power to unilaterally limit OHV access on public lands with no public input whatsoever.

    As a result, the AMA supported H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. This bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

    Many opponents of the proposal argue the bill is a move to prevent the creation of any new National Monuments.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The bill would simply require congressional approval for any new designation that covers more than 5,000 acres. Additionally, it would allow the president to immediately designate monuments that cover less than 5,000 acres and seek retroactive approval within three years.

    This would ensure that local input from affected citizens could be heard and their concerns be addressed.

    The AMA believes this change is in keeping with the original intent of the law in that the president shall attempt to confine the designation “to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” Additionally, it would put the onus on the Congress to pass bills that protect land that truly is worthy of the status of a monument. Moving the bill through Congress would require negotiation, compromise and local input, the hallmarks of a good decision-making process.

    The AMA supports the creation of new Wilderness areas and new National Monuments when the intent of the laws to authorize the designation of news public lands are followed.

    Throughout its more than 100 years in existence, the Antiquities Act has been used by presidents on each side of the aisle. A total of 16 presidents have used the act. The presidents not to do so were Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    The American Motorcyclist Association supports the creation of new National Monuments when the law is applied properly, namely that the land to be designated a monument “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected (16 USC 431).”

    The AMA takes issue when, without public input, new National Monuments are created that adversely limit off-highway-vehicle access without the consideration of local public input.

    However, the Antiquities Act provides only one way for a National Monument to be designated. Congress can also designate new areas for protection. Congress has used this power 40 times.

    This is the preferred method for OHV enthusiasts – and others who use public lands for recreation – because it allows riders to contact local, state and federal elected officials to voice concerns. Additionally, the AMA believes this method encourages compromise, so all users are able to continue to benefit from public lands.

    Gaining congressional approval is successful.

    While Congress is currently gridlocked, on March 13, 2014, President Obama signed the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore Act. This bill protects 30,000 acres of land next to Lake Michigan. This law – initially cosponsored by a bipartisan contingent of the Michigan delegation – proves that land preservation bills can make it through a divided Congress.

    There are other bills that have been introduced during this Congress that would protect more land for all users. H.R. 995, the Organ Mountains National Monument Establishment Act would protect almost 55,000 acres in Southern New Mexico. However, instead of a blanket proposal by an unelected bureaucrat, the bill allows for current recreational access to continue within the new monument.

    U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have introduced a bill that would protect sensitive areas in the Hermosa Creek Watershed while simultaneously creating an OHV recreation area which would protect the future of single-track trails in the San Juan National Forest.

    These bills would protect and conserve the Hermosa Creek watershed for motorized and non-motorized access for future generations.

    The American Motorcyclist Association will continue to oppose the creation of large and unnecessary National Monuments that unfairly restrict OHV access. However, we will continue to support the development of conservation areas that protect the cultural, social and economic resources that distinguish some of America’s public lands while still providing for access so American can enjoy those lands.

    The AMA understands that our nation’s public lands are a treasured resource that must be preserved. We have taken steps – such as supporting the Recreational Trails Program – to ensure trails are built and maintained properly.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: AMA protects your access to safe fuels

    If you are an AMA member with AMA Roadside Assistance (available at no additional charge with autorenewal – click here for more info), then you know how this service provides peace of mind when you go riding on your favorite roads or trails.

    The AMA hopes you will never have to use it.

    However, this is becoming less likely because of the marketplace permeation by E15 fuel. E15 gasoline contains as much as 15 percent ethanol by volume. The AMA opposes E15 because misfueling can cause engine and fuel system failure to motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles and can void manufacturers’ warranties.

    According to Federal Trade Commission, “the record … shows a risk that misfueling may harm conventional vehicles and non-road engines.”  

    As for what E15 can do to engines, the EPA recently explained that “[e]thanol impacts motor vehicles in two primary ways. First . . . ethanol enleans the [air/fuel] ratio (increases the proportion of oxygen relative to hydrocarbons) which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures and potentially increase incremental deterioration of emission control hardware and performance over time, possibly causing catalyst failure. Second, ethanol can cause materials compatibility issues, which may lead to other component failures.”

    What does this mean for motorcycles and ATVs?

    According to the EPA, “In motorcycles and non-road products [using E15 and higher ethanol blends], EPA raised engine-failure concerns from overheating.”

    Besides voiding your warranty and causing engine failure, there is another pleasantry in the mix. Federal law makes it illegal to use E15 in your motorcycle or ATV, because they are not on the EPA’s approved list.

    What is the punishment for violating this law? A fine of up to $25,000 a day!

    All this from a questionable fuel that is propped up by subsidies from our federal government.

    Are you sick of the nonsense coming from Washington?

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    By joining the AMA, you will be part of an organization that is leading the effort within the motorcycle community to protect access to safe fuels. In fact, my personal motto is “Kick it, don’t kiss it.”

    This is the attitude I am bringing to the table and am looking for other riders to fight the nonsense coming out of Washington.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Big win for motorcyclists’ privacy

    After hearing the concerns of the motorcycling community, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced an amendment to S. 1925 that would extend to all motor vehicles the protection of information gathered by event data recorders, sometimes referred to as black boxes.

    On April 9, the amendment passed the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by voice vote.

    The new language of the bill grants ownership of any data collected by an event data recorder for any motor vehicle, instead of only passenger motor vehicles, as the original language stated.

    Federal law (49 USC § 32101) specifically states that motorcycles are not to be considered passenger motor vehicles.

    As a result of your hard work, motorcyclists could be granted the same privacy protections as the owners of passenger motor vehicles.

    Additionally, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced bipartisan privacy bills that aim to protect the privacy of information collected by event data recorders in motor vehicles.

    This is great news for the motorcycling community, as each chamber begins the process of drafting a highway bill.

    While the House and Senate bills will surely be different, it is likely that each broader transportation bill will encompass some form of privacy protection for motorists.

    As a result, when the bills are reconciled the question will not be IF privacy protections should be included but whether to use the House or Senate version in providing the protection.

    Now, the million-dollar question is: When this will happen?

    While the AMA continues working to ensure the next surface transportation bill recognizes the benefits of motorcycling and includes funding for motorcycle safety – but not for motorcycle-only checkpoints -- it is reassuring to know that motorcyclists’ private data would be treated the same as that of other motorists.

    The AMA will continue to keep you updated on legislative and regulatory actions that could affect your right to ride.

    Full story

  • AMA Freedom Friday celebrates the freedom that access provides

    Access.

    It’s a simple word. It’s meaning is obvious, right?

    You can get into a place. What else do you need to know? 

    No need to give it a second thought. 

    But, wait. Let’s think about it a little more.

    There likely are some aspects of “access” you haven’t considered.

    For dirt riders, access to public lands is a big issue. For street riders, access to parking is very important. But what about access to safe fuels? Access to health insurance? Access to communities controlled by homeowners associations? What about access to private property? Or safe highways? Or high-occupancy-vehicle lanes?

    Some of those issues probably were already on your radar when you started reading this page. But all of them are vital to motorcyclists as individuals and to motorcycling in the long run.

    We want you to be aware of these important aspects of access. And we want you to know that, at the American Motorcyclist Association, we think about access a lot. 

    Much of the effort expended by our Government Relations Dept. is focused on protecting, preserving and expanding your access. 

    • We fight for your right to access public lands on your motorcycle or ATV with your friends and family. 
    • We press for access to designated motorcycle parking spaces in parking garages and along the curbs in congested urban areas.
    • We back public-private partnerships that resolve liability issues and open access to trails across private property for motorized recreation.
    • We urge legislators at all levels to ensure motorcyclists and ATV riders have access to coverage under a health insurance plan. 
    • We battle the ethanol lobby to prevent the expanded distribution of E15, a fuel that could damage your engines and void the manufacturer’s warranty. We are protecting your access to safe fuels. 
    • We encourage communities to provide access to urban off-highway-vehicle parks to give enthusiasts a place to ride safely and legally.

    In short, “access” is not just a simple word to us at the AMA. We view “access” – your access -- as a precious commodity that requires vigilance, dedication and resources to gain, to hold and to grow.

    So, on this Freedom Friday during AMA Go Ride! Month, pause and ponder the wide array of access issues that affect your riding life. Then hop on that bike and Go Ride!

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Do your homework on E15

    You don’t dispense different types of milk from the same bottle or run premium beer through the same tap as the cheap stuff.

    So why are the pro-ethanol folks so intent on jeopardizing the health and performance of your motorcycle or ATV by promoting blender pumps that funnel their E15 and E10 mixtures through the same device?

    And why are they fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to roll back the requirement for wider distribution and use of E15, when that fuel is not approved for any of the 22 million motorcycle and ATVs on the road and trail (to say nothing of your lawn mowers and other small engines).

    Why do the ethanol groups push you to risk damaging your fuel lines, wrecking your engine and, very likely, voiding your warranty?

    The pro-ethanol group can’t quarrel with our position, so they try to bait us (and you) with advice, such as “Read the label.”

    We counter with this: “Do your homework.”

    The AMA’s approach has been to educate our members about the current problems with widespread distribution of E15 fuel. So, by now, you likely already know that it’s a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume.

    And you know that any amount of ethanol in the fuel can create problems for many vintage machines.

    You know that the AMA has called for testing of the effects of E15 on all types of vehicles before the government approves wider distribution of the fuel.

    And you know that the pro-ethanol groups are well funded and deeply invested in convincing federal officials to continue to help them expand their businesses.

    The AMA helped stall the government-subsidized spread of E15 by convincing Congress to prohibit grants that paid for more blender pumps.

    Now we need your help to convince the EPA to stick to its guns on this issue.

    Tell the EPA that you support its proposal to reduce the total amount of ethanol required in transportation fuel nationwide in 2014. You can send a prewritten email to the EPA immediately by entering your information into the form below and clicking the red "submit" button. To send a Tweet to the EPA, click here.

    For the latest information on the AMA’s efforts to protect your access to safe fuels, go to http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/amafuelforthought.aspx.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: A new way of thinking about federal Wilderness?

    To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the U.S. Department of the Interior is highlighting the benefits of Wilderness.

    The DOI writes that the act, “has allowed generations of Americans to enjoy the natural beauty of our nation.”

    The American Motorcyclist Association supports the new designation of public lands as Wilderness when all of the land receiving the designation meets the stringent definition set forth by the 1964 law:

    “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works
    dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and
    its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor
    who does not remain.”

    However, the AMA disagrees that Wilderness is the only – or most effective – manner to encourage Americans to enjoy our nation’s public lands.

    In fact, Wilderness designations often create roadblocks to average Americans who are trying to enjoy themselves on public lands.

    The Wilderness designation means motorized vehicles are banned, shutting out one of the country’s most popular forms of recreation.

    And those stringent restrictions penalize Americans who need mechanized help to gain access to Wilderness areas.

    Many Wilderness areas require permits that limit the number of people allowed in at any given time, making it difficult for outfitters and guides to operate a profitable business.

    While federal law states that Wilderness areas shall be devoted to recreation – among other things – the law clearly is not applied in that manner when Wilderness designations slam shut the gate to visitors.

    How could this be changed?

    The AMA urges land managers and lawmakers to shift their thinking on land use designations. We urge others to follow the model of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) in their bills regarding the Hermosa Creek Watershed in Colorado and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) with his Public Lands Initiative.

    Instead of going for an all-or-nothing strategy, Rep. Tipton and Sen. Bennet saw the need to compromise. As a result, their final bills codify a management area where motorized recreation will receive special protection. At the same time, the bills identify other areas that have not been used extensively and propose to designate them as Wilderness.

    This is a commonsense solution to a difficult problem.

    The AMA supports these bills – and the process that brought them about – because it will allow all to continue to access public lands.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Privacy and data protection for all road users

    As the result of the introduction of new technologies – and revelations about how the information gleaned from this technology is being used – privacy and data collection issues are debated regularly in the media, Congress and the executive branch.

    A host of bills has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate aimed at protecting and clarifying the types of data which are owned by individual consumers – and cannot be used without consent – and which consumer data are available for marketing and legal proceedings.

    Several bills have been introduced that will clarify who owns and, as a result, who can access data from your vehicles.

    Like so many things in life, the bills are not equal.

    H.R. 2414, the Black Box Privacy Protection Act, is a broad proposal. First, it defines an event data recorder – commonly known as a black box – as “any device or means of technology installed in an automobile that records information such as automobile or motorcycle speed, seatbelt use, application of brakes or other information pertinent to the operation of the automobile or motorcycle, as applicable.”

    The bill goes on to say that “any data recorded on any event data recorder in an automobile or motorcycle shall be considered the property of the owner of the automobile or motorcycle.”

    H.R. 2414 would ensure that the owner of the motorcycle would own the data. No one else could access this data without the permission of the owner, a court order, or for diagnostic and maintenance purposes.

    This bill grants the same protections to operators of motorcycles as is granted other non-commercial vehicles.

    The American Motorcyclist Association fully supports this bipartisan bill.

    S. 1925, the Driver Privacy Act, is significantly narrower in scope.

    The bill would grant privacy protection only for data that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires to be collected under 49 CFR Part 563.

    This section of the Code of Federal Regulations requires only passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses to be equipped with the data recorders.

    Motorcycles are not required to have the devices.

    As a result, since event data recorders are not required to collect information in motorcycles, our data would not be covered under S. 1925.

    Simply because event data recorders or black boxes are not required to be placed onto motorcycles does not mean motorcycles are not equipped with them. In fact, some current models are equipped with a black box.

    While other motorcycle rights organization have supported both bills, the AMA is working with the sponsors and cosponsors of the Senate bill to ensure motorcyclists are granted the same protections as other non-commercial drivers on the roads.

    American Motorcyclist Association logo

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Using the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase access opportunities

    As Congress makes a last minute dash to wrap up its legislative business before campaigning begins in earnest, the American Motorcyclist Association urges recreationists, lawmakers and land managers to consider how recreational facilities are going to be maintained over the long term.

    As I have noted in other blog posts, if many recreational opportunities are to remain open, safe and environmentally responsible, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act will need to be reauthorized, albeit with additional transparency requirements.

    However, the FLREA will not be enough to reduce the maintenance backlog on federal lands.

    Instead, we urge lawmakers to look at the Land and Water Conservation Fund as an additional source of recreational funding.

    The president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposed $900 million for the LWCF. It states: “This funding will provide the stability needed for agencies and states to make strategic, long-term investments in the nation’s natural infrastructure and outdoor economy to support jobs, preserve natural and cultural resources, bolster outdoor recreation opportunities, and protect wildlife.”

    The AMA fully supports preserving resources and bolstering outdoor recreation. However, federal LWCF revenues are used predominantly for land acquisition – $214 million in 2010 – and other projects that increase the burden on land managers’ already strained budgets.

    This ensures the LWCF is not as effective as it could be in increasing recreational opportunities.

    We urge lawmakers to consider allowing a portion of LWCF to be used for maintenance and enhancement of current trails and trail-related facilities.

    Why buy more, you don’t use what you already own?

    The environmental upside is significant.

    With the proper funding, off-highway-vehicle trails can be built and maintained using the standard set by Joe Warnex and the AMA.

    This would significantly reduce the environmental impact of trails – a win-win for recreationists, conservations and land managers.

    The change in emphasis would reduce the maintenance backlog and increase existing recreational opportunities on federal land.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: AMA seeks transparency in federal recreation fees

    In 2004, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act became law – giving federal land managers the ability to impose fees to generate funding for enhanced recreational experiences.

    The law is certainly beneficial to many off-highway-vehicle riders – most recently demonstrated with the preliminary approval for the reopening of the Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trail in Mississippi.

    However, there have also been complaints about the implementation of new fees – with some riders claiming that motorized recreationists have paid an unfair share.

    As the 113th Congress begins to consider the last pieces of legislation before political campaigning begins in earnest, the FLREA is being considered for reauthorization.

    This is an important piece of legislation for OHV riders.

    Without the FLREA, it would be impossible for federal land managers to issue special recreation permits that are essential for many OHV events. Recreational opportunities would be lost, as federal land managers would be forced to deal with reduced revenue that could have been spent on maintenance and trail building.

    The American Motorcyclist Association wants to ensure that the fees collected are directly benefiting OHV recreationists and not being used to subsidize other non-paying visitors. To this end we are working to put new rules in place that would protect OHV riders.

    The proposed rules would prohibit land-management agencies from using special recreation permit fees to fund costs that would be necessary even without OHV events. In the past, some agencies have inflated the price of special recreation permit fees to help offset operating expenses unrelated to the OHV event.

    To accomplish this goal, we are asking that the law be changed to require federal agencies to keep detailed records of fees collected and money spent.

    We want to pay our fair share, but we do not want to subsidize others.

    What other ways can we work the Congress to make the FLREA a better, more efficient program? Please send comments to grassroots@ama-cycle.org.

    Full story

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