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  • DC Insider: Affordable Care Act and Motorcycling

    Lately, the news cycle in Washington, D.C. – and around the country – has been dominated by the developments surrounding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    Over the past several years, the American Motorcyclist Association has been actively involved in ending healthcare discrimination that occurs when insurers would not cover otherwise insured injuries simply because the participant was motorcycling when the injury occurred. In fact, some companies had formalized this into their employer-sponsored health plans in order to lower costs.

    The AMA vociferously opposed this because, as anyone can see, the policy is inherently discriminatory against a legal mode of transportation and a very popular lifestyle.

    In fact, in 2003 Colorado included a provision in state law (10-3-11-4 (f) (XII)) declaring these practices as “unfair methods of competition and unfair deceptive acts” to sell insurance that denied “health care coverage … to any individual based solely on that individual's casual or nonprofessional participation in the following activities: Motorcycling; snowmobiling; off-highway vehicle riding; skiing; or snowboarding.”

    As you may know, minimum insurance plan requirements are increasing under the ACA. Under the new requirements insurers will be unable to market policies that do not meet the stricter standards.  As a result, many insurance plans will be required to provide an increased level of services and options to meet the requirements.

    While the regulations and rules surrounding the ACA are still being written, interpreted and implemented, the AMA is hopeful that under this law all insurance plans will be required to cover all injuries sustained while using a motorcycle or all-terrain-vehicle for recreation, competition or as a legal mode of transportation.

    In order to ensure this is the case, the AMA recently wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius asking if motorcycle discrimination would continue to be allowed under the ACA. As we wait for the response, the AMA’s Government Relations Department is still discussing this important issue with lawmakers at the state and federal level to ensure that all motorcycle related crashes are covered under insurance plans.

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  • DC Insider: Presidential proclamation celebrating our public lands

    The proclamation starts out with a celebratory flare:

    Atop soaring mountain peaks, alongside bubbling streams, in woodlands and grasslands that stretch over rolling hills, Americans find inspiration in our great outdoors. Just as our diverse and rugged landscapes reflect our national character, the way we care for these open spaces mirrors our commitment to future generations. On National Public Lands Day, we celebrate the lands we share and gather to conserve our natural heritage.

    It makes you just want to get outdoors and ride responsibly to enjoy our public lands – right?

    Well, you may want to throttle back.

    Unless you have been away from civilization the past week, you would know that our federal government shutdown on Oct. 1.

    Why does Oct. 1 matter, and how is it relevant with the National Public Lands Day proclamation?

    Oct. 1 is the day the proclamation was published in the Federal Register and it’s the same day our federal government shut down.

    Imagine the irony.

    The President proclaims a celebration of our public lands the very same day our government shuts them down and prevents you -- the responsible rider – from enjoying them.

    It sort of defeats the purpose of a National Public Lands Day.

    It is time for common sense to reign in Washington.

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  • DC Insider: Beltway gridlock and the motorcycling community

    As Congress settles into another stretch where it appears increasingly likely few pieces of major legislation will get signed into law, I want to reflect on how this standstill could potentially affect the motorcycling community.

    Let’s start with the bad.

    The American Motorcyclist Association has been hard at work with several congressional offices to get bills passed that would require testing of E15 on motorcycles (H.R. 875 and S. 344), prevent the federal government from funding motorcycle-only-checkpoints (H.R. 1861), protect riders’ privacy (H.R. 2414) and reopen Cape Hatteras in North Carolina for responsible off-highway-vehicle use (S. 486).

    This common sense legislation has little chance of being passed by the House and Senate and enacted into law in the current hyper-partisan environment.  

    Additionally, with Congress at a standstill more and more decisions related to public lands access and highway safety are being made by unelected bureaucrats. This poses difficulties for motorcyclists because we have less influence on policies and are unable to hold decision makers responsible in the same manner as elected officials.

    Believe it or not, congressional gridlock actually has some upsides for the motorcycling community.

    Partisan bickering will prevent America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (S. 769 and H.R. 1630), the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 1187), and several other large Wilderness bills from being enacted. In total, these Wilderness bills would limit responsible OHV access to an area almost the size of the State of New York, and the AMA opposes them because they do not meet the strict definition of Wilderness established by Congress in 1964.

    Additionally, Johnson Valley in California will remain open to off-highway recreationists because legislation is needed to conduct the land exchange necessary to remove  land from the federal Bureau of Land Management’s control. This will allow for the King of Hammers – along with many other events – to continue as it has in the past.

    Finally, congressional efforts to increase tolling and restrict access to HOV/HOT lanes for on-highway motorcyclists will remain dormant.

    What’s next? For the near future, it appears that gridlock in the Congress is here to stay. Whatever your politics, gridlock will effect on- and off-highway riders in some good and some not-so-good ways. The AMA government relations department will work hard to ensure the effects are positive. 

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  • DC Insider: E15 boosters attempt to mischaracterize the AMA’s ethanol position

    You have heard the old adage before: When you don’t have the facts that support your position, you attack the messenger.

    Well, this is exactly what the boosters of the untested-for-motorcycles E15 fuel blend (15 percent ethanol by volume) are doing. They are trying to mischaracterize the American Motorcyclist Association’s position as blanket opposition to ethanol.

    For example, a group promoting ethanol recently gave away free E10 gasoline to motorcyclists at Sturgis with a sign that read “Why is the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) calling out just one [E15 fuel]? Read what else is wrong with AMA’s claims on E15.”

    The latest attempt is to use the motorcycle racing community to further their agenda to get E15 into retailers across the country. The pro-E15 website provides an example of how a racing team uses E85 (85 percent ethanol by volume) in a “stock” motorcycle with a modified fueling system and that, everything works fine – which we applaud. After all, the top-speed bike was designed to operate on a high-percentage ethanol blend – and alcohol-burning racing motorcycles have been around for a long time.

    The suggestion -- that if race bikes can run on E85, why worry about E15? – is quite disingenuous because competition machines are purpose-built and do not have to conform to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards or satisfy the durability demands of  everyday riders. Certainly an engine's internals and cooling and fuel systems can be designed to operate on high(er) levels of ethanol. But that really misses the criticism coming from the motorcycling community.

    Which is this:  100 percent of the 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles on the road and trail in the U.S. today are not designed to run ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel. And yet the opportunity to misfuel and damage an engine with higher ethanol blends such as E15 is very real.

    It is time to set the record straight.

    1)    The AMA recognizes ethanol is one of many possible fuels. The key is that when our engines and fuel systems are designed for one type of fuel, we can't just put anything in the tank and expect there will be no problems. There has to be a ready supply of safe fuels for all motorcycles and ATVs.
    2)    The EPA has not tested E15 on motorcycle and ATV engines and does not approve of E15 for their use.
    3)    Use of E15 can void a manufacturer’s warranty.
    4)    The AMA wants an independent, scientific study on the effects of E15 on motorcycle and ATVs engines.
    5)    The AMA’s concerns has always been that riders might unintentionally put E15 in their fuel tanks due to confusing and/or unmonitored implementation of the EPA Misfueling Mitigation Plan and the possibility of residual E15 fuel left in a fuel hose, which could be as much as one-third of a gallon.

    The bottom line for the AMA is this: Motorcyclists simply want safe fuels available at all fuel retailers and measures employed by retailers to ensure they cannot inadvertently put unsafe fuels in their tanks.

    Get the facts on this important issue with the AMA’s E15 and Motorcycles Q&A.

    Please be sure to share this with your fellow motorcyclists to counter the spin coming from the E15 lobby group that does not have your best interests at heart. The AMA is your voice.

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  • DC Insider: Federal agency offers grants that may increase E15 availability and subsequent misfueling

    On Aug. 15, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture announced the recipients of grants [i.e. taxpayer dollars] from its Rural Energy for America Program to be used for renewable energy systems. One approved use of these REAP grants is for the purchase and installation of special ethanol blender pumps.

    In order for retailers to offer E15, a blend of gasoline that includes up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, they will need to convert their current pumps to these special ethanol blender pumps.

    According to the release, the USDA will provide a total of $25,765 that will be used on two projects in Minnesota and South Dakota. It was also made known by the USDA that these two projects are only the initial recipients. In fact, they informed the AMA in a conference call that there would be an additional 11 projects announced soon.

    The REAP grants are part of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s plan to install 10,000 blender pumps by 2016. REAP will be a key component to achieve the secretary’s goal and, thus, help grow the availability of E15 fuel.

    The American Motorcyclist Association has repeatedly expressed concern about the potential damage that E15 fuel can have on motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines and fuel systems. For details, see www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/amafuelforthought.aspx.

    These special ethanol blender pumps may increase inadvertent misfueling by consumers. In fact, the EPA is concerned enough to issue a plan for retailers on its website’s “E15: Misfueling Mitigation Plans” page to try to avoid misfueling by consumers.

    The AMA believes the REAP grant program to purchase special ethanol blender pumps will only worsen the possibility of E15 misfueling by consumers – a fuel that is not approved for any of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs in use.

    The AMA has you—AMA members and all motorcyclists—in mind concerning the untested effects of E15 fuel on your ride!

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  • DC Insider: Big Brother and your ride

    If you are concerned that your insurer will selectively use data from an event data recorder (commonly known as a black box) to increase your motorcycle insurance rates, or that recorded data may be used to target you in a civil or criminal proceeding, then you—the motorcyclist—should urge your U.S. Representative to support H.R. 2414, the “Black Box Privacy Protection Act.”

    U.S. Reps. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced this legislation, among other items, to protect motorcyclists’ rights. The American Motorcyclist Association protects motorcyclists’ freedom to ride and we support this bipartisan bill.

    The bill would require manufacturers to prominently disclose to consumers if a black box is installed on their motorcycle, the data collection capabilities of such a device, and how such data may be used. The bill clarifies that the owner of the motorcycle owns the data and it may not be accessed without the permission of the owner. Furthermore, this bill requires that manufacturers provide consumers with the option of controlling the recording function in automobiles or motorcycles manufactured in the future that are equipped with black boxes.

    In other words, consumers would have the ability to turn the black box on or off.

    Currently, no federal law exists that clarifies the rights of vehicle owners to ownership of the recorded data.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring black boxes be installed in all cars manufactured after Sept. 1, 2014. The NHTSA already has disclosure requirements, but the Black Box Privacy Protection Act would make the disclosure more prominent and give consumers even greater choice and privacy protections.

    Does your government need to know your riding habits? If your answer is no, then you can do something about it.

    Help us get additional cosponsors for H.R. 2414. The bipartisan bill will protect motorcyclists’ rights and clarifies that the owner of the motorcycle owns the data.

    Most importantly—It will also give you the ability to turn off the black box!

    Act now by using our alert for H.R. 2414 to send a prewritten message to send to your representative.

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  • DC Insider: Another dynamic may contribute to inadvertent E15 misfueling

    There’s a new dynamic that may contribute to inadvertent E15 misfueling: Reid Vapor Pressure.

    What is Reid Vapor Pressure, or RVP?

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, RVP is “a common measure of and generic term for gasoline volatility. EPA regulates the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season (June 1 to September 15) to reduce evaporative emissions from gasoline that contribute to ground-level ozone and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems.”

    How can RVP contribute to inadvertent E15 misfueling?

    The American Motorcyclist Association recently discovered a retailer in Wisconsin selling E15 with a label that does not meet the current labeling requirements per the EPA misfueling mitigation plan.

    This discovery prompted the AMA to research the validity of this new label.

    The AMA learned that the retailer in question is located in a “volatility attainment area” that prohibits the sale of gasoline with a RVP that exceeds 9.0 psi.

    Because of the RVP issue, the retailer affixed a label that states, “Stop! Not Gasoline! This fuel is designed to operate in Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) only. Please consult your owner’s manual before fueling if you are unsure if you are operating an FFV.”

    Yet, the EPA informed the AMA in a response to our inquiry that it “does not have any fuel dispenser labeling requirements for RVP. However, some states may have independent labeling requirements.”

    Does Wisconsin have independent labeling requirements with regard to the RVP season? If so, how does it comply with the federal regulations that state that it must be gasoline during the RVP season. The label clearly states that this not gasoline.

    Moreover, the federal regulation states the ethanol blend “must be at least 9% and no more than 10% (by volume) of the gasoline” during the RVP season.

    How does an E15 fuel that contains up to 15 percent by volume comply with the federal regulations?

    More importantly, how will motorcyclists know this fuel is unsafe for their motorcycles?

    These are the questions sent to Wisconsin in an effort to address our concerns with the RVP label on an E15 blender pump.

    Once the AMA receives a reply, we will be sure to share it with AMA members and all concerned motorcyclists.

    The bottom line—the AMA wants access to safe fuels for motorcycles and ATVs. Given marketplace realities, wherever E15 is sold there will very likely be inadvertent misfueling issues. Motorcycles and ATVs are not approved for E15 use, and inadvertently misfueling a motorcycle or ATV has the potential to not only damage the engine and fuel system but also to void a manufacturer's warranty.

    The loser of any inadvertent misfueling is the motorcyclist and ATV rider. The AMA stands behind not only its members, but all riders, in calling for more extensive testing for E15 and more thorough misfueling safeguards.

    Get the facts on this important issue with the AMA’s E15 and Motorcycles Q&A.

    Like always, the AMA has you—the motorcyclist—in mind concerning the potentially harmful effects of E15 fuel on your ride.

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  • DC Insider: Sunshine is the best disinfectant

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

    Well, U.S. Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) are following Brandeis’s advice with the introduction of H.R. 2919, the “Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act.” This bipartisan legislation would reinstate tracking and reporting requirements of payments made under the Equal Access to Justice Act.

    This legislation is long overdue and the American Motorcyclist Association and the All-Terrain Vehicle Association thank Reps. Lummis and Cohen for introducing it.

    The bill will return the EAJA to its original intent, instituting targeted reforms to reinstate and track reporting requirements intended to make EAJA more transparent.

    The lack of transparency and oversight has led to EAJA program abuse by anti-OHV groups using taxpayer funds to file lawsuits. These lawsuits can ultimately lead to restricting responsible motorized access to public lands.

    “The Equal Access to Justice Act was a good idea when it passed Congress more than three decades ago,“ said Congressman Lummis. “It remains a good idea today so long as it is operating as Congress intended. Requiring agencies to keep track of what they pay attorneys will help Congress determine if EAJA is working well, or not. I am appreciative of Rep. Cohen’s engagement in this effort, and look forward to working with him and our House colleagues to move this bill forward.”

    “Americans have a right to know what their government is doing and their government has a duty to be as transparent as possible,” said Congressman Cohen. “Without adequate reporting, citizen’s rights cannot be fully protected and the government risks failing in its duty to its people. I look forward to working with Representative Lummis to reopen the government’s books to help ensure that all Americans have access to this information.”

    Let’s support H.R. 2919 by getting as many cosponsors to push this bill over the top. You can use our easy-to-use alert to send a prewritten message to your representative today.

    At the AMA, we wholeheartedly agree with Brandeis, Lummis and Cohen—give us some sunshine!

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  • DC Insider: Is another federal agency trying to influence state laws?

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a notice in the Federal Register on a proposed project entitled “Costs and Cost Savings of Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention: Evidence-Based Policy and Behavioral Interventions.”

    With the notice coming from the CDC, this caught our attention.

    So, the American Motorcyclist Association reached out to the A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education of Iowa, Inc., known as A.B.A.T.E. of Iowa, to send a joint letter to the CDC.

    We 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” in order to get— in their own words -- the “biggest bang for the buck.”

    We learned that the CDC study will focus on thirteen “interventions.” Specifically, one of them is “motorcycle helmet use laws.”

    According to the notice, “information is needed to complete a research study of the costs and costs savings to society of implementing evidence-based interventions.”

    What is the CDC’s definition of “evidence-based interventions”?

    An official with the Department of Health & Human Services responded on behalf of the CDC to our letter. According to the HHS, “We used a wide body of research from various organizations to identify/define evidence-based interventions. We include studies conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the World Health Organization [Part of the United Nations], and other organizations.”

    The CDC further “evaluated the list of effective interventions against a set of pre-determined criteria for the project.” And added, “These criteria included the potential for broad implementation, the potential for high impact in injuries prevented and lives saved, and the likelihood that the intervention would be implemented at the state level.”

    What is the intent of the CDC in using this data once complete? Is one of the purposes of the study to influence state laws?

    “CDC will use the data collected to complete the cost estimates for each of the selected thirteen interventions. The cost estimates will be used in the main product of this project, an online tool.” Moreover, “The online tool can be used to identify the intervention or sets of interventions that can be implemented in individual states that will provide the largest benefit in injuries prevented and lives saved. This project will provide scientific information to help states choose to focus their safety efforts in areas that make the most sense for their situation.”

    With regard to funding, how much is this study costing taxpayers? Moreover, will sequestration make it more difficult for this project to be completed?

    “The contract for the entire project was awarded at $927,554. The cost for the key informant interviews for all thirteen interventions, including motorcycle helmet laws, is estimated to be $30,000. This project will not be affected by sequestration.”

    Let’s recap.

    Our federal government will spend nearly $1 million to run a project that will use data from federal agencies and federally funded programs, as well as a UN agency, to support 13 interventions that the CDC believes “would be implemented at the state level.”

    Curious about the CDC’s agenda? So are we.

    Ever since the CDC released a study in June 2012 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’s no secret that the CDC wants more states to adopt mandatory helmet laws.

    The CDC is not the first federal agency to make a case for universal motorcycle helmet laws. For years, the NHTSA sought to influence state legislatures in the same manner. Then, in 1998, the NHTSA was prohibited from using federal funds to lobby state or local legislators. In 2011, Congress introduced a resolution supporting efforts to retain the ban on the NHTSA's ability to lobby state legislators, and urged NHTSA to focus on motorcycle crash prevention and rider education and training.

    That’s the bottom line for the AMA: Rider education and training, as well as motorist awareness programs, are effective strategies to reduce motorcycle crashes from ever occurring. Whereas, universal motorcycle helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes.

    Just to be clear, the AMA -- as part of a comprehensive motorcycle safety program to help reduce injuries and fatalities in the event of a motorcycle crash -- strongly encourages the use of personal protective equipment, including gloves, sturdy footwear and a properly fitted motorcycle helmet certified by its manufacturer to meet the DOT standard. But the AMA believes that adults should have the right to voluntarily decide when to wear a helmet. (The AMA does not oppose laws requiring helmets for minor motorcycle operators and passengers.)

    We spent years sending that message to federal legislators and NHTSA regulators. Now it’s time to do the same with the CDC.

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  • DC Insider: How much do motorcycle-only checkpoints cost you, the taxpayer?

    If you thought a few thousand dollars, you would be wrong.

    For the past two years, the cost to federal taxpayers to fund motorcycle-only checkpoints in just three states is well over $500,000!

    That’s right.

    In addition to the privilege of being signaled out and directed to a discriminatory checkpoint, you also have the pleasure of knowing that your hard-earned tax dollars are allowing this to occur.

    Specifically, the fiscal 2012 and 2013 state highway safety plans indicate that New York and the District of Columbia have earmarked federal grants for MOCs.

    New York budgeted $490,000 in the past two years alone! Even more troubling, the state used motorcycle safety funds from Section 402 of Title 23. Funds from this section should promote strategies to prevent motorcycle crashes from occurring and not be used to arbitrarily pull over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections.

    And this is just for two years. New York stated in its highway safety plans that it has conducted MOCs “officially” since fiscal year 2009, but fails to mention its costs for fiscal years 2009-11.

    Additionally, the District of Columbia stated in its highway safety plans that it conducts two motorcycle-only checkpoints each year and uses federal grants to fund a $25,000 enforcement budget to help pay for it.

    You may also remember that Georgia was the only state to receive a federal grant in the amount of $70,000 from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration program to create MOCs. The grant was used to conduct one or more roadside MOCs, including one by the Georgia State Patrol on I-95 on March 9, 2011 to single out motorcyclists on their way to Bike Week at Daytona Beach.

    Fed up? You can do something about it.

    Help us get additional cosponsors for H.R. 1861, the Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act. The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), will protect motorcyclists’ rights and promote crash prevention as the most effective use of taxpayer money to save motorcyclists’ lives. It will also prohibit federal funds being used by states to conduct MOCs.

    Act now by using our alert for H.R. 1861 to send a prewritten message to send to your representative!

    To view the AMA's efforts to end motorcycle-only checkpoints, go to http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/motorcycleonlycheckpoints.aspx.

    You—the motorcyclist— can count on the AMA to guard your freedoms while you enjoy the ride.

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