Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 19th, 2009 at 4:03 pm
Karl Rohde, the BTA lobbyist who is working on a bill in Salem that would allow bicycles to treat stop signs as yields (known as the "Idaho Stop law"), tells us that the fate of the bill hangs in the balance. (The bill received its first committee hearing yesterday).
According to Rohde -- who called me from Salem with this update -- several legislators have informed him that HB 2690 is in jeopardy because their constituents are expressing opposition to the bill after several negative and/or inaccurate news reports have come out since yesterday. Those media stories have stoked a wave of concerned calls and emails to legislator's offices.
Rohde says AM radio talk show host Lars Larson mentioned the bill on his show yesterday and it received a largely negative response. Rohde -- who is a frequent guest on Larson's show -- said Larson, "didn't bother to call to let me explain the bill". Rohde is scheduled to be on the show tomorrow, but Larson's coverage yesterday apparently triggered a number of calls and emails to Salem in opposition to the idea.
In addition to the Lars Larson Show, The Oregonian published a highly biased news report on the bill in their newspaper yesterday. Adding to the BTA's trouble was an inaccurate report by KATU-TV that said the bill would allow bikes to roll through both stop signs and stop lights.
The BTA's bill has never included stop lights and, after Rohde contacted them, KATU corrected their story. However, KATU's sister station in Eugene, KVAL, ran the uncorrected version throughout the day (both KATU and KVAL have edited their stories to say "flashing red lights" instead of stop lights).
At this point, Rohde said he is weighing various strategies to counter this negative tide. His concern, as relayed to me today, is that the court of public opinion is weighing in based on incorrect information.
Rohde says he's working hard to meet with legislators individually to get their support of the bill but that it's "very important that they hear from constituents directly."
The bill was heard in committee yesterday but was not voted on. To move on, it must first muster 6 votes in the House Transportation Committee, a hurdle that is still very likely. However, getting a bill out of committee is the easy part. At committee, supporters like Rohde can rely on expert testimony and they have the luxury of answering questions from legislators. However, once the bill gets to onto the floor of the 60-member House, it's a whole different ball game.
This seems like a critical moment for the bill, especially if legislators continue to hear more opposition than support.
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