MSF still marching to take over yet more state programs?

Or, in one case, create one in order to take it over?

It’s Saturday, so it must be time for yet another installment in the MSF March to Take Over State Programs. Today it’s Mississippi…maybe.

Mississippi is one of three states that do not have a state motorcycle safety program (the other two being Alaska and Arkansas). And very little training happens in the state–which is not saying that’s a good thing, but then again, MSF curriculum has been proven not to produce safe, competent riders on the road. So perhaps it a wash, I don’t know.

However, things may be about to change since Mississippi currently has duplicate bills before its legislature that would establish a state motorcycle safety program–HB445 and HB 942. Oh, wait, there’s also HB 1252 and HB 1470 and SB2170. And the language is almost identical in all of them.

You may wonder as I did why there’s identical bills introduced at the same time in both the House and the Senate. It may go to how bills are passed in Mississippi. Bills introduced in both houses at the same time may shorten the time the legislation needs to pass. But why are there so many identical bills in the House? I don’t know.

Much of the language in the bills is extremely similar to the bill currently before the New Jersey Legislature. The bill language also reflects the language in the model legislation MSF distributed to states back in the 1980s and 1990s.

Like those states that worked off of the MSF model legislation, the bill in Mississippi sets MSF as the de jure standard: whatever actual program is created must meet or exceed what MSF does in terms of curriculum, instructor training and so forth.

The bill, like the one in NJ, also sets the same severe restrictions on those with motorcycle permits making it more attractive to take the course and be done with such restrictions.

One of the interesting things in the Mississippi legislation is that this new program isn’t a “Motorcycle Safety Program”. Instead, it is called, “The Motorcycle Safety and Operator Training Program”. The bill, however, says almost nothing about other safety efforts and a great deal about the operator training part of the program. Nor does the bill connect safety with operator training. And the difference is, at least, curious if not significant. 

Like the New Jersey legislation discussed last week, the Mississippi bills includes language that would allow MSF to take over the program. This time, if the bill passes, the program  could begin from it’s inception—July 1, 2009. In the Mississippi case, the language reads, “The department [of Public Safety] may enter into contract with public or private entities for providing the program’s instructional course and any services or materials necessary to implement the program.”

It also sets up the driver’s license-waiver to be given upon successful graduation. One version of the bill, HB 1252 sponsored by Rep. Gunn (R), reads that the course offers a “skill test similar to the “Motorcycle Operator Skill Test” [MOST], which is endorsed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators [AAMVA]” But all the other versions only say that the driver’s license-waiver is given upon successful completion of a course, “which includes a similar test of both knowledge and skill.” This will become meaningful in the next entry.

The bill also establishes a position, Motorcycle Safety Director, and requires only that s/he has a motorcycle endorsement on his/her driver’s license and “be or have been” a chief instructor.

The Mississippi legislation also requires “state-funded public or private entities” to “provide reasonable cooperation in order to minimize course enrollment fee charged to the students.”

The program will cost the students money—but what that will be is not set and there is no price cap–something MSF has lobbied to remove in states that put them in original legislation. In addition, the bill sets up a motorcycle safety fund that will raise monies, as in other states, on fees for the endorsement and motorcycle registration. It also would set an additional $5.00 per motorcycle as an annual “highway privilege tax”. The legislation also doubles  the cost of a motorcycle license permit.

There’s more there—but you can read the bill for yourself to find it. The point is: yet another state program is being set up in a way that will allow MSF—who is in dire financial straits—to take it over. And, if you are familiar with the MSF Franchise Plan—and if you were aware that MSF has taken over the four Honda training sites and are now styling them as “MSF campuses”, and if you know that MSF now makes the majority of its revenue already from state program administration in the four states it now controls, you’d know that MSF can make big bucks by taking over state programs. And if you know that MSF has recently assigned Al Hydeman, spin doctor, to research and develop a management training program for MSF, then you’d have a better understanding of what’s going on in New York and New Jersey and Mississippi and—well, we’ll get to that.

Meanwhile, we’re not done with Mississippi yet. It gets a little curious when we consider that so many identical versions of the same bill were put forth in the house. But it gets even more curious when we look at who sponsored the bills—and what other bills they have sponsored:

Rita Martinson, (R) Dst. 58, sponsored HB 445 and HB 942—even though a fairly intensive reading shows no real difference between the two. Martinson is on no committee that would have anything to do with a motorcycle safety program except Appropriations, however she has introduced several bills on transportation issues in this session including one that would make motorcycle training mandatory for those under 18 and a bill for distinctive motorcycle tags. A related bill will also require vision tests upon license renewal.

Bryant W. Clark, (D) Dst. 47, is on even more committees that would have an interest in motorcycle training: Education, Transportation, Public Health and Human Services. His voting record when compared to Martinson’s makes it even more remarkable that they would both agree on the sudden need for a motorcycle safety program. Of course, it’s even more remarkable that they should both submit the exact same bill at the exact same time.

Clark also has another bill before the legislature, HB1099 that would establish a Skills Standard Board as an advisory board to the Governor. That bill is intriguing—it establishes a “Skill Standards Board” as an advisory board to the Governor. The board’s job is to “Validate nationally established skill standards to guide curriculum development, training, assessment and certification of workforce skills” for “all major skilled occupations.”

It’s interesting because the motorcycle program bill includes this passage: The Department of Public Safety would set “Standards for the motorcycle rider training courses, including standards for course content, delivery, curriculum, materials and student evaluation, and standards for the training and approval of instructors shall comply with the requirements of Sections 1 through 7 of this act, and the standards shall meet or exceed established national standards for motorcycle rider training courses prescribed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or its equivalent in quality, utility and merit.”

Clark’s Skills Standard board would be concerned with skills, “that can have “strong employment and earnings opportunities for the state” are “nationally recognized” and “require less than a baccalaureate degree.”

The motorcycle safety bill—unlike other state motorcycle program legislation—also includes this requirement for rider training instructors, “The person must have a high school diploma or its equivalent….” It’s truly a case when interests coincidentally coincide.

Otoh, Clark—although he’s introduced almost as many bills as Martinson—has very few transportation bills up for consideration.

Philip Gunn (R), Dst. 56 introduced HB 1252 and the bill includes the words “(By Request)”. It does not specify who requested he submit it. He’s on no committee that even remotely has an interest in a motorcycle safety program. He’s also is the only one of those that introduced identical bills who is not on any related committee. His version, however is the one that includes “…a skill test similar to the “Motorcycle Operator Skill Test”.

Bob M. Dearing (D), Dst. 37, sponsored SB1270. He’s a member of the Appropriations, Highways and Transportation, Insurance Economic Development and Public Health and Welfare—which is more than the trifecta when it comes to influence in setting up a motorcycle safety program.  And, oh yeah, he’s very involved in insurance issues.

The Mississippi bill is intriguing on many levels then: here’s a state that hasn’t ever had a training program—and barely has any training available in the state at all.This has been the case for more than 20 years when MSF worked hard to get state programs established. Yet suddenly about ten years after the last state program was created through legislation, suddenly there’s an interest in setting one up.

Can it really be random chance that they are all bills that allow MSF to run that program and name MSF as the de jure monopoly? And can it be just a coincidence that four almost identical bills are all introduced at the same time and  sponsored by four legislators who have almost nothing in common with each other in interests or voting records—except that all but one are on the committees that will have the most influence on whether they get out of committee for a floor vote?

And what are the chances that just when MSF needs a huge influx of cash, just when it’s setting up to run a management training and delivery program, just when it’s set up regional centers to run those programs—that’s when four separate legislators with just the right connections all introduce the same legislation that all name MSF as the de jure monopoly, raise monies through taxes and without setting fees on student enrollment and prepare the way for MSF to take it over?

New York, New Jersey and now Mississippi—who’s next? You tell me.

Explore posts in the same categories: Motorcycle Industry, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Motorcycle Training

One Comment on “MSF still marching to take over yet more state programs?”

  1. Dinosaur Says:

    MSF seems endlessly innovative in finding ways to make motorcyclists bleed…whether from physical injury of from their bank accounts. Every time they take over another state program, their appetite grows along with their bank balance. I’m certain the motorcycle manufacturers are laughing their heads off at how America’s riders are financing their sales plan for them.

    Makes me wonder when they’ll figure out that MSF’s programs are killing their customers? That’s really not good for busines in the long term.

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