KILLED IN COMMITTEE
by Jackie Suthers, Director
BOLT of Nevada
Hearing for Senate Bill 274
April 10, 2003
Nevada Senate Bill 274 (SB274) was heard in front of the Senate Transportation Committee on April 10, 2003 in Carson City, Nevada. In less than an hour (63 minutes to be exact) it was dead, dead, dead . . . with some very interesting testimony unattended.
Quig, Bianco, Ted and I had met that morning to go over everything a couple more times. We had the informational packets passed out to the committee members and had signed up to testify.
Gary Horrocks (Nevada Association of Concerned Motorcyclists/ABATE of Nevada) spoke first, and briefly. I went second and dealt ONLY with the fact that statute, as written, is not enforceable. I made it clear that Colonel Hosmer of the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Attorney General's office agreed with this and suggested a legislative solution. Turns out that the information we had been sending via email to some of the Senators had not been read. I was asked to wait as it was reviewed for the first time, at least by Senator Nolan. Quig joined me at the witness table.
Quig was pure gold! He was complimentary of the NHP, the Attorney General's office and everyone he had dealt with in the past year as well as the state of Nevada. He was very informative, telling them exactly why the statute was not enforceable and how we had come this conclusion. As Bianco said later, Quig was "on his game."
All the questions we were asked by the committee members had NOTHING to do with enforcement of the statute! We were asked about costs of injured bikers. We were asked about 'personal preference' versus public burden theory. The questions were answered and for every effort Quig made to get them back on enforcement, they spun the other way.
Colonel Hosmer, the Chief of the Nevada Highway Patrol, was introduced by Quig, and testified next. (Can you believe it?!? The head of the Highway Patrol, introduced by someone from the motorcycling community, and testifying in support of our position? That's got to be a first in the history of the bikers' rights movement!)
Hosmer made it very clear that based on FMVS.218, his troopers could not determine what is a legal helmet. How are they expected to stop a rider going between the speeds of 45 and 75 because the helmet is not legal? It cannot be done! He made it clear that the little DOT stickers could be bought anywhere. You cannot see an interior sticker when the helmet is on the head! What may look like a legal helmet, may not be legal. What may appear to be an illegal helmet may meet all the criteria (whatever that is). Hosmer testified that the Nevada Highway Patrol has instructed their officers to make the determination on their own, but to be prepared to defend that determination in a court of law on their own as well (also, we believe, unprecidented). He concluded by pointing out that the number of tickets issued for helmet violations has significantly dropped.
Colonel Hosmer could not have been more helpful, more honest or more sincere. It's amazing. As Quig said, "He said he's testify to the defects of the statute if we got a hearing, and he did -- even though the bill called for a full repeal. Hosmer's honorable to the core."
Another important aspect to note: thanks to Senator Shafer, we knew from the beginning that "repetitious information or testimony" wouldn't be allowed. Simply stated, he did not want to hear from all the different insurance groups, and so on. That cut the hearing time down considerably. But, we still had one more surprise!
Assembly member Don Gustavson had introduced a 21 and over bill in the 2001 session. You remember that one, we were granted a hearing, but no vote was taken. He spoke at the Freedom of Choice Ride in May 2001, and has been an active support (of us) ever since. He walked into the hearing room and we greeted him, gave him a copy of the information and were impressed that he would take time out of his schedule to sit in on this.
Well, he didn't just sit in. He testified! Not only did he testify, he testified the same way we did - addressing the enforcement issue, and stating that this had to be changed for the good of the state of Nevada. How many people, especially politicians would go that extra mile? Very few. None that I know of.
Others testified for and against the law, and once we have the whole thing on line, you can get all of it. But here is my favorite part:
Mr. Snodgrass with the NHTSA testified. Wait, let me correct that. Mr. Snodgrass with NHTSA spoke. You see, he said that there IS an agency that approves helmets Hmm, seemed someone forget to tell the rest of the world - including NHTSA so they could update their information. He said that FMVS.218 applies to the purchaser as well as the manufacturer Funny, I've reread that lengthy document and still can't find that part. Even printed out new copy to see if it had changed, nope.
He made it very clear that injuries in Florida and Texas have "significantly increased, as well as deaths" since the helmet law was struck down. He forgot to mention that miles ridden and the number of bikes on the road has risen dramatically. What does significant mean? He gave them NO facts, NO real numbers. If he said yes, our whole group shook their heads. When he said no, we nodded. Even using NHTSA information, he was wrong. Completely wrong.
Side note: When you go sit at the table for folks to testify, there is good sized sign saying "All persons presenting testimony are presumed to be under oath. In addition, the Legislation can require a person presenting testimony to take an oath." Where I come from, what he did was perjury. Anyone with the smallest amount of interest in the helmet laws will see his testimony and know that the majority of it was wrong. He's a professional and he failed to tell the truth.
How can he sleep at night? We aren't done with him.
Currently, violating the Nevada head protection law is a misdemeanor.
This means, that when we got the tickets in 2001, we could have been hauled off to jail, our bikes impounded and have to appear in court. Seems a little intense don't you think?
Senator Carlton offered an amendment - this amendment would have made infractions a secondary offense. Meaning that they would have to pull you over for something else, and ticket you for that offense as well as the lack of a helmet. Check this out - they voted against an amended bill.
Next favorite part - Senator Nolan said "This law is not enforceable. What can we do to correct it?" Well Senator, since you asked . . . I'm working on suggestions.
There was more discussion, nothing as "impressive" as the NHTSA stuff and took a vote. The Senate Transportation Committee voted 3-4 to leave the law as it is written on the books. Yep, SB-274 was defeated.
As we were leaving, I asked a couple of the others "So, they just voted to keep an unenforceable law on the books?" Yes, they did.
Sorry to hear that, but at least we have something work with. Heck, we thought having the opinion from the Attorney General and the testimony from the head of the Nevada Highway Patrol would get the point across. Like Quig and Bianco are fond of saying "They just don't get it do they?"
For your edification, we have transcribed the entire hearing, and provided an audio recording, that you can get to if you click here. (Later, we will have a link to a video recording of the hearing, so you can review not only the exact and accurate testimony, but the visual impact of the hearing as well.)
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Last updated: April 2003
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