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07-19-15

Motorcyclists Rights Rally 2015 - Harrisburg, PA

There is one thing we can't do anything about and that is the weather. This year the on and off rain definitely had a negative impact on the attendance. That is too bad because many people who were there seemed to be in agreement that this was one of the best rallies in a long time.

Even though we were unable to secure the VFW Picnic Grounds for Freedom Weekend we still rented the grounds for the Monday morning rallying point for the parade to ride into the capitol. The parade was led by the God Bless America Motorcycle Color Guard. The Harrisburg City Police met the group at the city limits and gave them an escort straight into the state capitol on Commonwealth Avenue. Again special thanks are in order to the Capitol Police and General Services for making parking available free of charge on Commonwealth Avenue directly behind the state capitol.

State Coordinator Dave Evans kicked off the rally promptly at noon in the rotunda by welcoming the attendees and outlining our goals for the remainder of the 2015/16 legislative session. Dave then introduced Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray who is one of the original ABATE members and also was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Motorcyclist Association for a period of time. Mayor Gray then introduced Rob Dingman President/CEO of the AMA who was present at the rally to make a presentation to our lobbyist Charles Umbenhauer. Rob presented Charles with the AMA Dud Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award which is the most prestigious of the awards presented each year. Charles has been the state legislative coordinator and lobbyist for ABATE of PA for more than thirty years and has played a key role in securing and protecting funding of the PA Motorcycle Safety Program. Charles accepted the award and stated that without the support of his many friends in ABATE of PA none of the accomplishments that he is credited with would have been possible.

We then attempted to do the "Circle of Friends" the introduction of legislators in attendance but things did not go quite as we had planned. Once the legislators were told to come to the podium and announce who they were and what district they represented, Senator Mario Scavello started off, followed by Representative's Sue Helm and Mark Longietti and then Representative Harry Readshaw came to the podium and started to make some presentations and promotion of the September Ride to Gettysburg. At that time Readshaw invited the legislators in attendance to join him at the podium. After that many of the legislators in attendance started to return to their offices and prepare to go to the floor for session. My sincere apologies to all of the Members of the Senate and House who did not get the opportunity to come to the podium and be recognized.

Representative Stephen Bloom then addressed the rally and updated everyone on House Bill 950 the Ride on Red legislation to give motorcyclists the option to proceed with caution through an intersection when trapped due to an unresponsive red light. This is a common problem that many motorcyclists and bicyclist alike experience when the traffic control signals that utilize a vehicle detection system are not always triggered by motorcycles and bicycles due to their smaller size.

Representative Jaret Gibbons prime sponsor of HB 853 legislation which is entitled, "Daniel's Law", for Daniel Gallitin a father, grandfather, military veteran and fireman of nearly forty years who was killed in May 2013 when the motorcycle he was riding was hit from behind in Lawrence County by a woman who was texting while driving. "This kind of irresponsible and reckless behavior has very real, and all too frequently, life changing consequences," Gibbons said. "Nobody deserves to have their life forever altered because of a text message or email." HB 853 will stiffen the penalties for drivers who cause fatal crashes while texting.

Longtime friend and supporter Senator John Wozniak then presented a scholarship check for $1000 to Olivia Bridges of Johnstown who won the Senator Clarence Bell Scholarship for 2015 for her essay on ABATE and their activities.

The rally concluded with the presentation of BikePAC contribution from chapter members in attendance. Although the attendance was off this year, the contributions were at a record high with $16,500 contributed to the bikers political action committee, BikePAC.

Charles made some closing remarks again thanking those in attendance for their continued support of his efforts and said that while some were floating rumors of impending retirement, Charles stated that he is now spent 47 years riding various motorcycles and 35 years organizing the annual Rights Rally and that he is now 70. He only stated that there would be no retirement this year.

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Updated: 5/7/09 12:00 AM