Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 16th, 2009 at 9:52 am
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is working feverishly to garner more support for the Idaho Stop Law (HB 2690) with legislators in Salem.
According to BTA Executive Director and lobbyist Scott Bricker, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee has given him a significant hurdle — line up 31 “yes” votes from House members (the number it would need to pass) or the bill will die in committee.
Committee Chair Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) holds the future of the bill in her hands because she is the only one who can schedule the all-important work session the bill needs in order to be voted on by the committee and then forwarded to the full House. The deadline for her to schedule that work session is tomorrow.
I spoke to Bricker yesterday and he said himself, along with BTA legislative committee chair Doug Parrow and others on the BTA legal team, have been in “a ton of meetings” to try and garner the needed support but that “they have a lot of work to do” to get to 31 yes votes.
Bricker said he’s meeting with Rep. Beyer today to try and find way to move the bill forward. Tomorrow is the deadline to schedule work sessions, but the deadline to hold work sessions is the end of April. “So there’s gate number one,” remarked Bricker, “and if that closes, there might be a gate number two.”
“I would say the the political climate has softened a lot in the last week. I wish we had more time as it does seem like the tide is turning on this.”
— Bjorn Warloe, BTA legislative committee member
According to Bricker, Rep. Beyer is reluctant to schedule the work session for several reasons. First and foremost is that, due to the budget crisis hanging over everyone’s head in Salem, legislators are focusing all their efforts on what they see as essential and urgent bills. (Legislators are feeling a lot of scrutiny from constituents these days to work on the difficult budget issues, and not anything that could be seen as superfluous or unneccessary, like whether bikes should be able to roll through stop signs).
Another challenge facing the Idaho Stop Law is that it’s hardly a slam-dunk bill. The idea behind the law has been difficult to convey to legislators (and the media) and it has been somewhat controversial from the start. As a result, support for the bill is mixed.
Adding to the difficulty in getting to the magical 31 yes votes, says Bricker, is that many legislators like to hold their cards close to their chests. “Legislators prefer to not tell you how they’re going to vote, especially if they’re on the fence on an issue.”
In the meeting with Beyer today, Bricker will likely try to negotiate an agreement with her to schedule the work session in good faith, with the option of pulling it if the BTA can’t guarantee the 31 votes.
BTA legislative committee member Bjorn Warloe, who’s solo effort to pass the Idaho Stop Law last session is what earned him a spot on that committee, told me last night he feels they have about 2/3 of the votes needed to reach 31. Warloe said he’ll be in Salem all day today, “trying to get an accurate count and to push a few more people over to our side.”
Warloe thinks the bill’s chances are improving with each passing day, but time might be running out. “I would say the the political climate has softened a lot in the last week,” he said, “I wish we had more time as it does seem like the tide is turning on this.”
Warloe credited favorable stories about the Idaho Stop Law published by Joseph Rose in The Oregonian and the animation about the law by Portland-based computer graphic specialist Spencer Boomhower that are “making an impact with non-bikers”.
In other Idaho Stop Law news…
— Earlier this week the Eugene City Council formally voted in favor of reversing their opposition to the bill. According to BikeLane Coalition Executive Director Jim Wilcox, after public testimony and heavy lobbying by Eugene cyclists, the council voted to reverse the recommendation from city staff opposing the bill and voted for a change to a neutral position.
— The BTA is shopping around proposed amendments to the bill that would limit the use of Idaho stops to streets with a 25 mph speed limit or less, and require that cyclists slow to a speed of no more than 10 mph while yielding. (The amendments are attempts to answer concerns from various legislators.)
Stay tuned for further developments.