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Washington Road Riders Association


2001 Breakthrough in Olympia

When I-695 passed in 1999 numerous state funds were at risk to cover the shortfall created by the passage of the initiative. One such fund was the Rider Education Account. In 2000 the Washington Road Riders Association was formed to represent state motorcyclists in Olympia on issues that directly affect them. With over 200,000 motorcyclists in the state, do you know who is representing you in Olympia? Well, perhaps it's time you did.  

One WRRA officer is Karen Bolin (fifth from right) who spent much of the first four months of the year representing not one, but two bills in Olympia. The first was to protect the rider education funds and the second was a vehicular assault bill. Both bills passed and below is an interview with Bolin following the passage of the bills.  

Sound RIDER! supports the efforts of the WRRA and Bolin. We hope you'll take the time to read the interview and become more active in the efforts to keep government in check.

1. In your own words what brought about the formation of the WRRA?

I consider the formation of the WA. Roadriders Association to be a reflection of motorcyclists activism in WA. State.  When I first went to Olympia in the early 90's, rider organization and influence were minimal. Over the years that has changed. Today, the majority of riders in the state are tuned into motorcycle issues, on both the state and federal level. The time was right to form a Motorcyclists organization that has one agenda: Pro-actively advocating motorcycling issues in Olympia, and ensuring that all interested riders in the state are informed, and involved at any level they choose. Accomplishing both with the level of excellence reflective of the riding community.

2. How do you  feel the WRRA is different from the past efforts of the AMA or ABATE?

The AMA, and the MRF (Motorcycle Riders Foundation), work on the national and international level. Both will assist in state issues when asked. However they both rely on state organizations to handle state matters. The WRRA has a close working relationship with both the AMA, and the MRF.

ABATE is an organization with a long history in WA. State. Unlike the WRRA, ABATE hosts a variety of events at both the Chapter and State level. They host the two largest MC swap meets, and almost every weekend there is an ABATE Chapter holding a run. Many for a charitable cause.

The WRRA is focused in one arena only: motorcycling and government.

3. span style="mso-tab-count:1"> Describe the two bills you chose to tackle with Olympia this year.

 

The WRRA concentrated on two bills, and monitored close to a dozen more. 

SB(Senate Bill) 5114: The Rider Education/Use Tax bill. This bill accomplished three things: maintaining the Rider Education Account as a dedicated fund; abolishing a "use tax" applicable to motorcycles donated for use in teaching the Novice Riders class; and exempting motorcycles purchased for training from sales tax.

SB5790: Vehicular Assault. The WRRA was part of a remarkable coalition of interests pushing this bill. 5790 tightens the vehicular assault statutes; and eliminates part of the "causation" language in the current law.

Both bills passed; and as I write this await Governor Locke's signature. Communication with the Governor's staff must begin on day one of any legislative effort. It is an integral part of assuring a bill will become law. Governor Locke has indicated he will sign both.

4. What led to selecting these bills over other issues you could have pushed for?

Very simple: urgency, opportunity and political climate. Last year legislation  passed that created a "multimodel funding" structure to replace the existing funding mechanisms for transportation. It also opened the opportunity for dedicated funds within transportation to be absorbed for general transportation use. Our endorsement fees subsidize the rider education program. This is a dedicated account within transportation.  At the end of session last year Larry Walker (WRRA Assistant Gov't Relations) & I knew that protecting our account would be priority one in this year's session. We knew the multimodel train had left the station, however we had a shot for a "rededication" of  our endorsement fees.

Work began on SB5114 last fall. Sen. Pam Roach was instrumental in facilitating direct contact with Senate Transportation staff  and drafting the bill. Sen. Jim Horn agreed to prime the bill. Not only does he ride, he also serves on Senate Transportation, and served on the Governor's Blue Ribbon  Transportation Commission. Elimination of the "use tax" is not new, it has been tried before. The sales tax provision was Sen. Horn's homework.

We met with Andrew Johnson, Governor Locke's chief transportation advisor, the first week of session. When he indicated SB5114 met with the Governor's model of a "dedicated fund that works" within the Blue Ribbon Commission guidelines, we knew we might have a winner.

SB5790: Vehicular Assault. To be honest, the WRRA had targeted this as an issue we would tackle next year. We knew two things: we were tired of negligent drivers running over us, and the law  allowing a simple traffic infraction as the end result. Tired of seeing the "kill a biker, go to jail" stickers. Rhetoric is not action. We also knew this would be a major piece of legislation that would require an interest base beyond motorcyclists to make it happen.

Fortunately for all of us Sen. Adam Kline  drafted 5790. The bill creates felony guidelines where none had previously existed, and amends "causation" language.  With passage of this bill it will now be a "stretch" for a negligent driver to escape an arrest when inflicting "extreme bodily harm" or death. And when the driver goes to court, the attorney will need to work much harder to get a "walk" for a client.

As I said we were a part of a coalition of interests that moved this bill. And I think it is safe to say several years ahead of starting from scratch on this issue.

I've touched on urgency: Rider Ed.; and opportunity: Vehicular Assault. Reading the political climate is essential. Knowledge of legislative leadership is key for setting the time to move an issue. Every two years the mix in Olympia changes. We must be prepared to move our agenda within that mix.

5. How were you able to utilize the WRRA and it's membership to push these two bills through?

This is a great question. You have given me an opportunity to express how important rider participation is. During any given session several hundred bills will be introduced. Most never see any light. Bills move when the phones & e-mails in Olympia are hot. If a legislator is hearing from constituents, they respond. Organization generates interest and movement.

The WRRA maintains an e-mail list. It is a secure list, and the only material posted is information about pending MC legislation on the state and federal level. We do not require WRRA membership to be on the list. Our job is to provide all the informational tools required to facilitate communication between motorcyclists and their representatives.

We also have members who contact members who are not online.

Instant communication ability, and rider response, are absolutely responsible for the success of SB5114, and SB5790.

6. For how long will these issues be protected under the current legislature that has passed?

Several years ago I remember a legislator offering a bit of true wisdom: "In this town no issue ever goes away". Technically, what Locke signs now is safe until next January when the legislature reconvenes. There is no such thing as a long-term secure deal. Politics is fluid business.  I can think of no better literal application of  "you snooze, you lose".

Does it mean we'll be in Olympia next year fighting for Rider Ed? Probably not. Can I guarantee that? No.

7. How does it feel to know you're making an incredible difference for motorcyclists in their favor, while few even know about your efforts yet?

First of all I haven't made an incredible difference in motorcyclists favor. Motorcyclists have made an incredible difference in motorcyclist's favor. And there is no such thing as too many motorcyclists working in their favor.

8. How many hours of your own personal time did you put  into pushing these two bills through?

To be honest I have no idea. Just these two bills alone had time almost every weekday during session. Some days, all day.  First week of session, all week. I  have never tracked the time.

However my personal time also belongs to someone else. I can not leave this question without acknowledging my husband John. Time involved is a mutual dedication.

9. Does that cut into riding your BMW?

My bike & I find time together.  I suppose the time in Olympia could be spent elsewhere. However I consider maintenance given to the integrity of motorcycling just as important as maintenance given to the bike. Without both, the miles are dim.

10. What's your background in working with legislation?

I'm not a political pro. However I grew up around politics. My Father is a retired diplomat. My Mother was a journalist on the international beat.   John & I met in Taiwan 27 years ago. My college years: political science. My interest and study of history, politics, and philosophy is alive and well.

All of which qualified me to start at the very beginning in Olympia ten years ago.

11. How long has it taken you to figure out Olympia and learn the system there?

I'm still learning.  Initially it took a couple of years to "get the map" of how things run. Every two years the play in Olympia changes. The make-up of the House & Senate changes. The rules, committee chairs and leadership changes. Personalities change. Our issues are not partisan, therefore establishing strong ties with both sides of the aisle is essential.

It took several years to cultivate a working relationship with the appropriate officials in the state agencies with direct impact on any issue relating to motorcycling.

The same amount of time to develop communication with lobbyists of influence.

We are fortunate in WA.  Compared with other states we have a true "citizen" legislature that is very open.

12. What's on tap for next year?

We will set a legislative agenda at the WRRA May & June meetings. There are several issues under consideration; however any bills introduced must have the support of the riding community.

One item absolutely at the top of the list is appropriate signage for motorcyclists in road construction areas. This may seem like a simple issue, however road construction warning signs & their placement, is carefully regulated. Larry Walker & I "shopped" the issue on both sides of the aisle this year, and met with positive response. I also think this is an issue all riders will back.

We also are not finished with the Vehicular Assault issue.

The pending re-districting in WA will  impact the 2002 elections. Candidates will emerge during the fall and spring of next year, and the WRRA will pro-actively seek  their positions on various issues relevant to motorcycling. This information will be available through a Voter's Guide.

We are also looking into bringing the MRF Regional Convention to the Pacific Northwest.

On the national level we will be working with the MRF & AMA on several key issues: Proposed EPA regulations re: motorcycle exhaust ( NOT noise...emission standards); closing the loophole in federal legislation passed guaranteeing continued health insurance coverage through an employer. No denial of coverage based on MC ownership. And the implementation of  ITS: "intelligent highway & vehicle systems". These issues are huge.

13. Describe briefly what Black Thursday is and what the results were this year?

Black Thursday began several years ago at the initiation of ABATE of WA.  " Black" denotes the color of most motorcycle leathers, and Thursday is usually the day of choice in Olympia. All riders are encouraged to spend the day in Olympia, speaking personally with their representatives about motorcycle issues.

This has been an ongoing success; and we are one of the more "welcome" grassroots efforts in town.

This year brought a "first". A Rotunda Event was booked which allowed for many riding organizations involved in charity, and educational endeavors to set up displays. We all know the contributions motorcyclists bring to their communities, and the state.  This year legislators were made aware. Great PR for us.

14. How would you like to see it change for next year?

With the earthquake damage I'm hesitant to make a prediction for next year. I am sure there will be another Black Thursday. And I'm very enthused about doing another Rotunda Event. However I would book the Rotunda for later in the session, when the committee work is complete, and legislators spend the entire day in the capital building.

I would also like to see several thousand participants. It happens in other states. It can happen here.

15. How can riders learn more about the issues and who their local officials are that they can rally for support of those issues?

This is absolutely at the heart of what the WRRA hopes to accomplish. No matter what level of political interest or involvement one chooses to have, elected officials make decisions every day that impact our lives.  We have tried to make it easy for anyone to "connect", and communicate with their representatives.

The WRRA has a website: www.roadriders.org . There is a link to the WA. State Legislature website. Just click and punch in your zip code. That is all it takes to find your district, and who represents you.

Also, every WRRA BOD member is easily accessible, and knowledgeable. Ready to answer any questions.

As I mentioned earlier, anyone can request addition to the WRRA e-mail list.

16. WRRA does a great job of reaching out to all types of motorcyclists. Is this by design?

Yes. The majority of WRRA founding members have years of experience working motorcycle issues, both at the state and national level. We all agreed that any organization that claims to represent the interests of motorcycling must actively seek out ALL riders. There is no room for judgment; just a shared commitment to the integrity of our passion. 

Personally I welcome the day when ANY elected official, or agency policy maker, understands that prior to introducing MC legislation, or enacting a MC regulation, they MUST talk to the people who ride. What they do impacts every motorcyclist. The day when candidates seeking office understand that motorcyclists are on the "A" list of groups they need to contact.

The WRRA was formed with a dedication to the entire map.  We hope to set a standard that will draw the support of  all riders, and firmly establish the influence needed with lawmakers.

17. span style="mso-tab-count: 1"> What are some of the ways the group has reached out to the riders this year?

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We have made an effort to personally attend a varied menu of riding organization meetings, and events. Answer every e-mail, letter and phone query. Establish a website and publicize it. 

From the beginning this has not been an organization of "here we are, come find us". It is a matter of accepting any invitation offered, and creating opportunities.

18. How can someone join the WRRA?

Easy. About to get easier. Membership applications are available on our website: www.roadriders.org .  We are in the process of creating a direct online membership. Currently, the application needs to be printed, and slow mailed to our Olympia address. That will change.

Come to a meeting. Contact anyone listed on our website.  We will also be at a variety of meetings and events in the next few months.

19. How often, and where does the group meet?

We meet the last Sunday of every month in Auburn.

20. Any camp outs, swap meets or rallies planned?

The WRRA is a membership based and funded organization.  The majority of our members are involved with other riding  groups.  The "Riding Season" in WA is year long, and a look at weekend riding events reflects that. From Vintage to Touring to Hi-Tech, we are not in the business of competing for weekend time with other groups.

The organized exception might be what I mentioned earlier: a host organization for a regional MC Conference.

The unorganized result of all of this is we have members riding all brands of bike...who enjoy the road and each other. It is inevitable that a "spontaneous ride" happens, or a weekend camp-out is planned at an event we are attending.  

  Interview by TM/Spring 01


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