Capitol Defense
By: Dave Breakiron

ABATE of Pennsylvania

Legislative and Leadership Seminar January 2006

It sure was great to see so many ABATE of Delaware Officers and Members at this year’s L&L Seminar in Harrisburg. Usually it’s just me, Pete and once in a while a few County Officers. But this year I think there were 29 or 30 of us. All there to learn how to better serve the members and find out how we can get our message out.

“Membership: Our greatest asset”. “Security and insurance liability concerns”. “Working the Legislative process”. “Sending ABATE’s message”. “Products for you and your Chapter”. “Public Speaking”. The list of workshops went on and on and covered just about everything you need to make things work.

Thanks to work related meetings all day Friday, I didn’t make it to Harrisburg until after dinner. I’m in the hotel long enough to register at the front desk, drop off my bags in the room and it’s down the hear Karen Bolin, President of the Motorcycle Rider Foundation (MRF), tell us what the MRF is about and what they can do to help ABATE with getting things done.

Having been the MRF State Rep for Delaware for the last 15 years I already knew what the MRF is about and I know first hand how they’ve helped us. In 1992 Wayne Curtin, VP MRF Government Relations, brought Chris Kallafez, AMA Legislative Coordinator, to Dover to give testimony during a Senate Committee debate on the proposed Helmet Law.

There is no doubt in my mind that with Wayne and Chris on our side we were set to succeed in Dover. We would not be where we are without their input. If you’re not a member of MRF and AMA, why? They were there for you and you need to be there for them.

Add to that the MRF conventions we have attended to learn the basics and finer points of Grassroots Politicin’ and Karen was preachin’ to the choir. At least in my regard. But I never get tired of hearing what she has to say. She is quite an inspiration and helps get me fired up!

After listening to Karen for a couple hours, which seemed to fly by, it was to the Hospitality Suite for some One on One with the movers and shakers of the Motorcyclist Rights people from Pennsylvania. Men and women that I have come to know and respect over the years as they fought relentlessly to get the Helmet Law repealed in their State. Old friendships and new challenges and paths to follow.

It’s 2:30AM and I have a 7AM wake up call. We’ll start again tomorrow morning.

8AM Saturday. Had breakfast already and it’s an hour until PA State Representative Teresa Forcier’s workshop on “Inside the Legislative Process”. Stop the Seminar registration desk, pay the fee, get the manual and start to handicap the day’s schedule. I met Teresa a couple years ago when the Helmet Law Repeal Bill was introduced in Harrisburg. Teresa has always been a supporter of Bikers in her State. She is one of the reasons why the Repeal Bill passed. She also has first hand insight on how the “process” works and brings it across in terms and substance that is easy to understand.

Pennsylvania’s Legislature operates differently than Delaware’s, but there are certain things that are the same. The way to a Legislator is basically the same. Personal letters. Phone calls and office visits. Be brief, truthful and stay on track. Only the facts and substantiate them. Be able to back up whatever you say with credible data. If you try to blow smoke up their ass you’ll go up in smoke!

The next workshop was “Running for Office”, and it was moderated by Rick Gray, the Mayor of Lancaster. Not only is Rick the Mayor but he is also the current Chairman of the Board of Directors of AMA, and an ex-officio of the MRF Board. Although I currently have no ambition to run for public office, Rick is also a great motivator and you get energy and enthusiasm just being around him. Rick and his wife Gail, who rides her own BMW a lot more miles a year than most of us do, did a workshop a few years ago titled “Debating Helmet Laws without using the ‘F’ word”.

These people have been doing this Freedom Fightin’ thing a long time and know what works and what doesn’t. Rick spoke about Communications and how to get the right message to the right people. I am currently half way through a book that Rick recommended by George Lukoff titled “Don’t think of an Elephant”. Like you, when he mentioned the title I thought of an Elephant. A professor in linguistics, which means language, he explains in simple terms how to get the right message across to your audience.

Once Rick was elected Mayor of Lancaster he went from riding 20 to 30 thousand miles a year to 4000 miles last year. He’s been a lawyer for years and now has to cut back his caseload to attend 4 evening meetings a week. Rick took quite a pay cut to take on the role of Mayor, but thought it was important enough that he had to do it. He didn’t like the way things were being done so he put his money where his mouth is.

Rick went door to door, personally, asking the voters what they thought needed to be fixed in the city. He didn’t take donations from any corporations, directly of indirectly. He had numerous fundraisers and threw his own money in the war chest. The people supported him and elected him and now it’s his turn to support them.

No one believes in Rick more than Rick does. And the people of Lancaster can count on him to believe in them as well.

Quick lunch and a brief “wadda’ ya’ think so far” with the rest of the Delaware contingent and it’s off to the next session.

“The Golden Hour – Accident Scene Management”. The quickest 3 hours you’ll ever sit through. Slider Gilmore, a retired EMT form Iowa, and a true Old School Biker, does a program on how to manage yourself and others in an accident.

You’re out a run with your crew. One of your riding partners goes down hard. What you do and how you manage the situation immediately following an accident can be the difference between life and death. Initial assessment, treatment and stabilization of the trauma victims are the most important thing you can do. That’s where Slider’s training comes in.

Slider teaches from where he’s been. He was an accident victim at the hands of a car doing a left hand in front of him. He’s had guys go down while riding with them. Slider’s been riding for over 40 years and has been involved in Basic Life Support Classes and Training since the early 70’s. Slider has presented his program to over 5000 EMS, fire, law enforcement and nursing personnel as well as thousands and thousands of bikers at the MRF and NCOM conventions over the years.

I first saw his presentation in Omaha in 1991 at the NCOM Convention. Slider joked with me in Harrisburg that I’ve seen his Two Wheel Trauma and Accident Scene Management presentations so many times that I could do the show. No way. This guy has lived it for 40 years. I’m just the guy in the front row taking notes to pass on to others.

I can go on about Slider’s credentials forever. He’s been inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame, The National Motorcycle Hall of fame and the AMA Hall of Fame. He’s a member of the AMA, MRF and a life member of HOG, recipient of the Silver Spoke Award from NCOM, the third recipient of the award preceded by Malcolm Forbes and Willie G. Davidson, and the list goes on and on.

The bottom line is that the three hours we spent listening to Slider’s presentation may be the difference between life and death of one of our riding partners. As much as we hate to admit it, riding a motorcycle in today’s environment is adherently dangerous. That’s part of the mystic and that’s why we need to be ready to react properly if something happens. I’m ready. Are you?

Immediately after Slider’s program we retired to the Lounge and we all agreed that we need to get Slider out to Delaware to share his presentation with the membership. I introduced Ski to Slider and it’s in the works. It will take some planning on our part, but we’re committed to making it happen.

The best part of the Seminar was getting to sit around in a relaxed atmosphere with the Officers of all three Counties and finding out where they think we need to put our energy. There are a lot of new ideas coming from the new Officers and new members. The State Board, under Ski’s leadership, will coordinate our efforts and will make it happen with the help and participation of all the members up and down the State.

In closing, Pete Mazzella, our Legislative Coordinator, and I are trying to set up a visit to Washington, DC to ask our guys in Congress to get behind us on several issues. The Insurance Bill (HIPAA), EPA issues and the Highway Bill, just to name a few. We’ll be asking the membership to send a couple letters and make a couple calls in the near future to help us reinforce our message. We’re also working with the State Legislature on Motorcycle Awareness and getting our message heard locally. We’ll keep you in the loop.

Help me congratulate the new Officers, thank the outgoing ones and keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the handlebars! See ya’ on the road!

And a special thanks to my ‘ol buddy Charlie Larimore for stepping up when no one else would!

Ride safe and ride smart!

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