Preparing to Testify in Leather

I am planning to go to my state’s Capitol next week and the week after to appear before a state Senate committee to testify on two bills. The first one, which is a perennial issue for me, is on a bill to ban using hand-held communications devices while operating a motor vehicle. In short: a “cell-phone ban.”

While I was speaking on the phone yesterday with my district’s Senator who is sponsoring this legislation, I asked, “should I show up in my biker leathers?”

He laughed, and then realized I was serious, and said, “sure… that would be different.”

I know that most people who show up to testify on various legislation pending before our state’s General Assembly are attorneys, and many of them are registered lobbyists. They are paid by various interests, such as the wireless industry, to show up in their bland, boring pin-striped suits and wingtips to take positions on bills. They aren’t really interested in the legislation, but on what they are being paid to say.

I am a different kind of person. When I show up, it is because I truly care about the issue about which the legislation is addressing. My position on a cell-phone ban remains solid: make using a wireless communication device while driving a primary offense, and give some teeth to the resulting penalty for the offense.

Why do I care so much about this particular issue? I witnessed a riding buddy get creamed on the road by a cell-phone yapping SUV-driver. The crash happened right before my eyes. I could have been me…. worse, it was someone I truly enjoyed riding with, and worked with as a local community activist. Now his voice isn’t by my side when we engage our elected officials. I am doing this for him, as well as for myself, and for all bikers out there who are in peril from thoughtless people who believe whatever they have to say on their damn phone is more important than paying 100% attention to operating what easily can become a lethal weapon.

So yeah, I am a different kind of “lobbyist.” I am not being paid by anyone to be there. I am taking leave from work to go to our state Capitol and express my concerns to our elected officials. And I’ll be there in leather — for a reason. It demonstrates that bikers are a constituency, too. I won’t be representing my club or any organization. Just myself. Because I care.

This is what is truly wonderful about our country — our right to petition the government for redress. Our right to speak freely about our concerns. Our right to freely elect representatives in our local, state, and federal legislative assemblies and then persuade them to support legislation that addresses concerns of us commoners. That’s one reason why I truly love this country. Right or wrong, good or bad. Engage, cajole, persuade, extoll, speak up. That’s what it is all about.

And today, I go to the funeral for a dear friend to say goodbye. I worked hard on his campaign to get him elected to local office. (This is another way I engage as a civic activist: supporting good people for public office.) What a sad day for his family, and for those of us who loved him. Godspeed, my friend. I’ll sure miss you.