The revamped AMA Government Relations Department hit the ground running in 2023, and is primed to successfully defend motorcyclists’ rights in 2024
Jan. 24, 2024 (Story from the January 2024 issue of American Motorcyclist)
By Keaton Maisano
The past 12 months brought about a bolstering of the AMA’s Government Relations Department, and new faces and a refreshed approach emphasized the main mission: protecting motorcyclists’ rights.
In 2023, the AMA set out to reimagine how it approached regional representation, allowing the team to more efficiently and effectively operate. This change led to the creation and staffing of Washington D.C., Eastern states and Central states representatives. Nick Haris, who remained in his role as the Western states representative, took over as director of the department.
The duo of Zach Farmer (Washington D.C. representative) and Nick Sands (Central states representative) joined the team in 2023 to help champion motorcyclists’ rights throughout the country.
The new-look GRD team hit the ground running as it monitored and engaged several issues throughout 2023, and the staff is looking ahead to another year of serving AMA members and motorcycling in 2024.
RIGHT TO REPAIR
In the fall of 2023, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing and markup of H.R. 906, the REPAIR ACT, which provides flexibility for consumers to diagnose, maintain, repair and modify their vehicles.
Legislation protecting the right to repair is gaining momentum at the federal and state levels, with more than 20 states introducing or signing into law proposals that support one’s right to repair. The Biden-Harris Administration issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to take steps to “make it easier and cheaper to repair items you own by limiting manufacturers from barring self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products.”
Congress is considering proposals, which include the right to repair, to enhance product safety and transparency.
The AMA supports motorcyclists’ right to repair their own motorcycles or seek out the services of an independent shop.
A growing number of bipartisan lawmakers and organizations continue to push for the year-round sale of E15 — which has been shown to damage carbureted and fuel-injected motorcycles, decrease gas mileage and reduce the shelf life of gasoline. The fuel is illegal for use in motorcycles, but clear labeling is not a requirement at the pump, leaving motorcyclists susceptible to confusion.
The Consumer and Fuel Retainer Choice Act of 2023 would enable the year-round nationwide sale of ethanol blends higher than 10 percent. Furthermore, the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan continue to issue temporary summertime emergency fuel waivers that allow the sale of E15.
None of these efforts have a labeling requirement that highlights the potential dangers of E15 for motorcycles. The AMA continues to oppose efforts that overlook necessary and essential labeling at the pump.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) were once again a hot-button issue for federal lawmakers in 2023.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation are increasing their efforts to monitor semi-autonomous vehicle developments. Along with releasing crash data and developing a comprehensive AV plan, NHTSA is engaged in the federal rulemaking process to ensure advancements in AV technology do not impact the safety of all road users.
Back in March 2022, NHTSA proposed a rule that vehicles with Automated Driving Systems (ADS) technology must continue to provide the same high levels of safety.
The AMA continues to voice its concern regarding AV, as shortcomings in development and regulation can lead to dangerous and deadly outcomes for motorcyclists, who are often left out of necessary testing of AV technology.
Cruise, the autonomous vehicle startup owned by General Motors, paused all driverless operations in 2023 after collisions led to investigations and a suspension of its licenses in California. Federal regulators have also opened an investigation into the company as it looks into pedestrian safety concerns.
The AMA recognizes the dangers of distracted driving, especially as it pertains to the motorcycling community. In 2023, 19 states introduced legislation to address driving, and as of publication, 34 states prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving.
At publication, four states — California, Utah, Montana and Arizona — have lane filtering laws, which allow varying flexibility for motorcyclists to filter between lanes. In 2023, seven states introduced lane filtering related legislation.
The AMA continues to support such legislation as part of a comprehensive effort to reduce a motorcyclist’s risk exposure in heavy stop-and-go traffic conditions. In the past year, the AMA supported bills such as H.B. 1755 in Arkansas, Missouri’s H.B. 1046 and H.B. 1454 in Tennessee.
The House (2018) and Senate (2022) passed resolutions promoting awareness of motorcyclist profiling and encouraging collaboration between the motorcycle community and law enforcement officials to prevent instances of profiling. Furthermore, eight states introduced profiling related legislation in 2023.
The AMA opposes motorcyclist profiling, defined as discriminatory enforcement action that targets motorcycle riders, by law enforcement. The AMA does support law enforcement that focuses on stops implemented through reasonable suspicion in a nondiscriminatory manner.
In 2022, the Two-Wheeled Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit expired, and it has yet to be renewed by Congress.
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Parity Act of 2023 in May. This act would make vehicles with fewer than four wheels eligible for the clean vehicle tax credit that is part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This tax credit awards upward of $7,500 to customers if both the vehicle and the taxpayer meet certain requirements.
California, Arizona, Maryland and Pennsylvania currently have certain tax credits, rebates and incentives for motorcycles.
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) has funded more than 25,000 projects across the country since 1993. Funding for the program has remained just north of $80 million a year for the past decade, but there have been recent efforts to increase this number, which is pulled from an estimated pool of more than $270 million from the eligible gas tax revenue. The RTP has been re-authorized multiple times, and there is a push to re-authorize the funding again soon.
2024: WHAT TO WATCH
- Senator Nick Hinrichsen (D-Pueblo) will introduce lane-splitting legislation in Colorado in the 2024 legislative session. The legislation will be modeled after Montana’s statute.
- Right to repair will continue to be an important topic in 2024, and the GRD team will remain steadfast in defending and informing motorcyclists on the matter.
- The Motorcyclist Advisory Council (MAC) — which advises and works with the Secretary of Transportation, the NHTSA Administrator and the Federal Highway Administration Administrator on motorcycle-related issues — was formed for a two-year period at the end of 2023. The 13 members that make up the MAC must provide a report to the Secretary no later than Oct. 31, 2024, regarding the following topics: motorcycle and motorcyclist safety, barrier and road design, construction and maintenance practices, and the architecture and implementation of intelligent transportation system technologies.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The members of the AMA Government Relations team will relentlessly work for your rights in 2024 and into the future, but there are also ways you can help defend motorcycling. Remain vigilant and updated on issues in your area, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the appropriate government officials. Furthermore, you can sign up for action alerts at AmericanMotorcyclist.com/action-center/.