MRF and YOU
By Andy Kelly
I don’t think many people in Pennsylvania realize how important the MRF is—what it has done in the past for motorcyclists, what it is doing for them presently, and what it can do for ABATE and the motorcyclists in this great country.
Let’s go back in time and see what the MRF has done in the past for the motorcycle community. The MRF is a grassroots organization that maintains an office in Washington DC. The MRF has held an annual national conference, “Meeting of the Minds", across the country since 1984 to get politically active motorcyclists together.
In 1988, a ban on “superbikes” such as the Kawasaki 900 was considered because the vehicle and others like it were deemed unsafe. The MRF worked with grassroots activists to lobby for improved training and education as opposed to banning it with legislation. As the saying goes: educate, don’t legislate.
Prior to 1998, any state that did not have a mandatory helmet law was punished by not receiving its full dollar amount of transportation funding. The MRF and the sustaining state motorcycle rights organizations partner to remove helmet language from the transportation bill that’s allowing states to remove the helmet law and give motorcyclists freedom of choice in Pennsylvania.
In 1991, a U.S. senator from Arizona introduced a general gang bill to make it easier for law enforcement to punish criminal gangs—in the bill, he specifically called out “motorcycle gangs”. The MRF was instrumental in removing the reference to motorcyclists in all outlaw gang bills.
In 2005, Senator Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey, a long time hater of motorcycles, introduced an amendment forcing states to implement mandatory helmet laws. The amendment was defeated thanks to the MRF aggressively lobbying against it. Senator Lautenberg made pushing for this law a recurring priority until his death in 2013.
In 2015, the MRF was successful in obtaining language in the Federal highway Bill (also known as "The Fast Act") stopping all federal funding to motorcycle-only checkpoints. The same year, the MRF was a key player in the creation of the Motorcycle Advisory Council (MAC) to advise the department of transportation on infrastructure issues pertaining to the unique needs of motorcycles and motorcyclists.
This is only a brief overview of what the MRF has accomplished in the past. The MRF is always looking out for motorcyclists' rights to make sure that no unfair laws are imposed upon us.
Let’s zoom ahead to the present and see what the MRF has been doing lately. With motorcycle profile and resolution in the session of 2015 to 2016, we were only able to get 18 cosponsors from 10 states. The MRF kept at it though, and in the 2017-2018 session they moved the number up to 37 sponsors for 17 states. In 2019, the numbers increased to 77 cosponsors and 34 states. Now, in 2020, there are 139 cosponsors for 44 states. We haven’t been able to get it to a vote though, and that’s why participation in the MRF and contacting your representatives are important.
In the 2019-2020 session, we’ve been trying to get our amendments into the transportation bill. The transportation bill is important for motorcyclists because that's where the majority of the laws that affect motorcycles come from.
The transportation bill comes up every five years and a lot of the amendments that would affect motorcycles have to be put back in each bill every five years or, if they’ve extended it (which usually happens), every six or seven years. This year Rocky Fox and Tiffany (before she left) had lobbied to make sure that the motorcyclists were included in this transportation bill. In the house bill, there were 705 amendments offered and only 227 amendments passed by the committee. Percentage-wise, only 32% of all amendments passed. Four of those amendments, however, were offered by the MRF and all four passed—100%. The amendments that made it into the bill were a continued ban on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration lobbying for any state, continued partial federal funding for safety training, and a reinstating of the Motorcycle Advisory Council (but they'll hold one of the designated seats for motorcycle rights organizations). Also, the ban on federal funds being used for motorcycle-only checkpoints will continue and there is now an addendum that says states may not use federal funds to profile and stop motorcycle operators or passengers using the apparel they are wearing or their mode of transportation as reason.
The MRF is also trying to get passage on the RPM act which limits the EPA’s ability to regulate modifications made to an exhaust emissions systems on a motorcycle. The organization is also trying to get the Ethanol consumer education bill through, which is essentially just a sticker on every gas pump explaining the harm in ethanol fuel. The MRF is also trying to update the definition of a "motorcycle". This is why we need your help and your support by way of membership and responding to our calls to action.