A.B.A.T.E. of PA…Winning the Legislative Process

In the 1997/1998 legislative session, A.B.A.T.E. of PA was ready to try again.

In 1997, Representative Theresa Forcier introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 279 with helmet law modifications. It passed the House 134 yea to 63 nay. On November 23, 1998, the Senate concurred with the amendment 27 yea to 21 nay. The bill was sent to then-Governor Tom Ridge.

A.B.A.T.E of PA had actively courted Governor Ridge’s support. Although he had not taken a public stand, A.B.A.T.E. of PA believed that he would be favorably inclined to a helmet modification bill.

Governor Ridge vetoed the bill on December 23, 1998. The stated reason was that a technicality in the language that would have offered motorcyclists the opportunity to ride without protective eyewear in addition to helmets. The Governor did promise to sign a similar bill if it reached his desk with the protective eyewear provision intact.

In 1999, A.B.A.T.E. of PA attempted to correct the bill with Senator Clarence Bell’s SB 241. The bill was defeated in the Senate on April 21, 1999 by 24 yea to 26 nay due to the loss of two Senators’ support.

Toward the close of the 1999/2000 legislative session, Representative Theresa Forcier successfully amended SB 1478 with the helmet modification which passed the House on November 21, 2000 by 131 yea to 66 nay. However, A.B.A.T.E. of PA and the Senate leadership knew that the votes weren’t there in the Senate so the bill died in the lame duck session.

During the 2001/2002 legislative session, several bills were introduced but no votes were ever taken. A.B.A.T.E. of PA realized that without a majority in both Houses, there was no point in running a bill that would ultimately not pass. A.B.A.T.E. of PA concentrated its efforts on the Senate to win a few new supporters.

By the 2003/2004 legislative session, two things had occurred which changed things for A.B.A.T.E. of PA. The first was that a majority could be counted on in the Senate. The second was that Governor Ed Rendell had replaced Governor Tom Ridge. A.B.A.T.E. of PA had built a friendship with Governor Rendell when he was Mayor of Philadelphia and he had promised to sign a modification bill when it arrived on his desk.

Senator John Wozniak introduced Senate Bill 259, which in 110 breathtaking days sailed through the Senate by 29 yea to 20 nay, the House by 118 yea to 79 nay, and was signed into law by Governor Ed Rendell on July 6, 2003, and went into effect on September 4, 2003.

The law that Senate Bill 259 amended had gone into effect on Friday, September 13, 1968. Nine days short of thirty-five years later, the law changed. When that bill ran in 2003, the idea that any special interest group could run a somewhat controversial bill from introduction to the Governor’s pen in 110 days was unheard of.

Accomplishing this took the efforts of tens of thousands of motorcyclists over three decades, hundreds of legislators, and a few key individuals.

Next: A.B.A.T.E. of PA…Coping with Success