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.