As often happens in the legislative world, a not so funny thing happened on the way to committee. HB 939, our auxiliary light bill to allow motorcyclists to utilize LED type accent lighting, ran into last minute trouble. Despite coming out of the House of Delegates on a 100-0 vote, the bill was fiercely opposed by the Senator Carrico, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. On top of that, the Virginia State Police lobbied the Governor’s office and obtained a promise that the bill, as written, would be vetoed if it reached his desk.
Chairman Carrico proposed an amendment which essentially re-wrote the bill. The amendment reads as follows:
The Superintendent of State Police shall establish guidelines setting forth a procedure pursuant to § 46.2-1005 to allow for the submission and approval of auxiliary lights on motorcycles that are not approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers and shall publish such procedure on the Department of State Police’s website by January 1, 2017. The approval of any lights or equipment shall also be published on the Department’s website and the Department shall notify official safety inspection stations of such approved equipment.
Needless to say we were not happy with this last minute attempt by the Virginia State Police to halt the progress of the bill. However, it was made clear by many on the committee that had supported the bill less than 24 hours prior that without the amendment the bill would fail in committee. We were left with a difficult decision. We could refuse to allow the amendment and pull the bill, or we could watch the bill be amended and then work with the State Police to create standards. Jim, me and the other 14 motorcyclists present retired to a conference room to debate the options and to take a vote. We all agreed to let the majority decide. After much debate and a 9-7 vote it was decided to keep the bill alive. The bill was thereafter amended in committee and passed as amended by a unanimous vote.
So where does this leave us? The Virginia State Police have until January 1, 2017 to create standards for auxiliary (accent) lighting. During testimony before the committee they promised to work with VCOM in doing so. Further they told the committee that the LED type lights that we had photos of were acceptable and that, with our help, they would create a standard that would allow them.
As of this writing, I have already had two conversations with a representative of the Virginia State Police. He has stated that he is eager to have something in place prior to the January 2017 date in order to allow motorcyclists to utilize accent lighting to improve overall visibility. VCOM has committed to work in good faith toward that goal. That being said, we are prepared to go back to the General Assembly in a much stronger position if all parties involved fail to act in good faith for the good of Virginia motorcyclists. So far the tenor and tone of the conversations is much different than last year at this time.
We were certainly hoping for a quicker resolution to this matter, but we will continue our efforts to find a way for Virginia motorcyclists to legally take advantage of this safety tool. Thank you to each and every one of you who answered the call to send emails or make phone calls. Your efforts are much appreciated. I also want to send a special thanks to those of you who took the time to come to Richmond in support of this bill. You did not sign up for the spirited debate and vote that you ended up being a part of, but your opinion and voice was critical in the decision making process. Thank you.
As always, if anyone has questions or comments about this matter please do not hesitate to contact me. I will continue to send information on this topic as the year progresses.
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group