PA SB530 could change almost everything in state motorcycle safety program

In the last entry, I discussed HB1189 which some may think would be a good law. But sometimes the effect of one law can dramatically change based on one or more that passes.

In Pennsylvania, there’s a bill in the senate could change what the property owner liability bill would do if both bills pass. Senate Bill No. 530, the “Free Enterprise and Taxpayer Protection Act”, is sponsored by a total of 10 sponsors. The primary one is Patrick Browne (R) but there’s nine others listed as co-sponsoring the bill. Who is behind the political face of the bill isn’t known—Verizon swears it isn’t—but there are a number of corporations that could have an interest.

One version or another of this bill has been introduced since 2004 so, if history is any indication, it may very well not pass. However the focus of it has changed over the years and perhaps one day they might get it right—or have enough power to pass it. As written now, the bill could apply to such things as broadband/wireless systems, nursing homes—or the state motorcycle safety program.

Currently, in Pennsylvania training is conducted by the state which contracts the administration to a contractor—in this case the trade group, Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The basic training program is free to students and range space is provided without cost to the program by state-owned agencies and educational institutions and, in three cases, by the military.

PAMSP couldn’t offer for free what private enterprise could charge for

In brief: If SB350 passed, it would prohibit the government from competing with private enterprise except in very limited areas. As a result, all training would have to happen by private enterprises such as Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge while the administration of the program could still be carried on by the MSF.

At best, the state program would severely restricted in its ability to conduct training, would have to charge similar rates to private enterprise, entities would no longer be able to make pavement available at no cost and the PAMSP would be required to make a good faith effort to find private enterprises to take over training until it was fully out of business.

In the best case scenario, it would limit state program courses to offer no more courses and not anywhere near those locations where for-profit businesses offer training courses and the state could charge no less than they do.

Pits belief in private enterprise against the belief that training is a public service

It begins with something most—if not all—of us can whole-heartedly affirm: “Private enterprise is necessary to the health, wealth and prosperity of the Commonwealth.” It goes on to state that the government competes with private enterprise when it provides goods and services to the public beyond its government function.

It then clarifies that the “act is intended to protect economic opportunities for private enterprises against unfair competition by government agencies and to enhance the effective provision of goods or services to the public.”

The entire premise of the state motorcycle system, though was to make training as cheap as possible so more students will take it. There’s nothing, however, to prevent dealerships from offering the same training for free—and indeed, 12 do as part of the program.

Any competition from government is inherently unfair

“Government competition” is defined as the provision of goods or services to the public by government agencies that are essentially the same offered by private enterprises.”

The bill sets forth that the existence of government goods and services apart from necessary services and that which only the government can do (“government functions”) is inherently unfair by its existence as long as there are at least two persons or entities engaged in offering similar goods or services for profit (“private enterprise”).

For example, the rider training program offered by the state is essentially the same as offered by Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge. Or, for example, if other dealerships started offering their own MSF-approved course for a price, they would be offering “essentially the same course.”

Under the provisions of this act, because PAMSP conducts training it’s “unfair” competition for private enterprises such as Rider’s Edge (or if Stayin’ Safe wanted to offer basic training) to compete since the PAMSP course is free and dealership courses in Pennsylvania cost $275-$295.

No more free pavement

Government agencies, as the act specifies, includes not just agencies like the Department of Transportation and so forth but the local Department of Motor Vehicle office or police department and every kind of school from university down to the local elementary school. Later, the bill stipulates federal government facilities such as military bases are included in the prohibition if they had an inter-governmental agreement with a state agency. Currently, 78% of PAMSP range courses are conducted on “government agencies” or have civilian training on military-owned sites. The rest of the current training sites are a consortium of Harley dealers (4) and multi-brand dealerships (8).

Government agencies and “all universities, community colleges, school districts and public authorities” would be “prohibited from competing against public enterprise, including intergovernmental or interagency agreement, and are prohibited from funding, capitalizing, securing the indebtedness of, or leasing the obligation of, or subsidizing, any charitable or not-for-profit institutions which would use such support to compete against private enterprise.” Currently, MSF—a not-for-profit institution—is not charged for the ranges or classroom space at “government agencies” as defined in this act. Even under the severely limited conditions the state program could continue, the sites could not offer free pavement.

Limited provisions for continued training

There are two provisions that could allow the PAMSP to continue to exist. Section 6 states, “General rule.—In cases of government competition against private enterprises that exist on the effective date of this act, the government agency or authority may continue to engage in the competition but may not exceed the scope of the competition.” In short, the PAMSP can be no bigger than the number of its frankly named competitors nor, it appears, charge less than they do.

Under Section 6 (3) if the PAMSP was seen as a “vital service” it could continue where private enterprise doesn’t exist—but would have to make “good faith efforts” to get private enterprise to offer that service instead. MSF would have to try to convince its manufacturer members to offer programs like Riders Edge through the dealerships who offer their goods for sale.

Iow, the days of free rider courses in Pennsylvania could be numbered—and that number could be up during this year’s training season. In 50% of the states that MSF has administered for the past several years, the cost of training has doubled—but that’s nothing to what would happen to the cost of training in Pennsylvania.

The bill, if passed into law, would go into effect 60 days after signing.

Turning PA into an independent contractor state?

If this bill passes, the state could become like other states where training is provided by independent contractors. But further legislation would have to be passed to do so—and any attempt to put a price cap on (as in CA and NY) would have SB530 to consider.

Legal remedies available to private enterprise

If such government competition does exist, any “affected person or entity” can file a complaint and get a hearing within 30 days at which time a preliminary injunctive relief” against the offending government agency.

Unlike other cases of this nature, there’s no need to show the lack of an adequate remedy at law or irreplaceable harm or any other common law element applicable to obtaining preliminary injunctive relief. All the person or entity has to show is “threat to private enterprise or public moneys is imminent.” All it would take is one Harley dealership who offers Rider’s Edge—or one multi-brand dealership who wants to offer training to file the complaint. And one prelimary injunction is enough to take down the entire PAMSP.

That preliminary injunction can turn into a permanent one—and monetary damages and recovery of costs are provided for if the state can’t prove its case, which in the case of the PAMSP, it couldn’t—it is free and by giving pavement away, it subsidizes MSF.

Won’t affect MSF’s contract

Strangely enough, it won’t affect MSF at all. In fact, the act specifically says that it doesn’t prevent the government from hiring entities such as MSF to provide “vital services or necessary services”. MSF is hired to run the state program—but nowhere in the language of Title 75, section 7911 that lays out what the state program is does it say that the administrator of the program has to conduct training. Rather it says that the department will certify schools to conduct approved motorcycle safety courses, will review course material, certify instructors, etc.

Explore posts in the same categories: Legislation, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Motorcycle Training, State Motorcycle Safety Programs

3 Comments on “PA SB530 could change almost everything in state motorcycle safety program”

  1. irondad Says:

    I just discovered that you were up and running again. Silly me, where have I been? Hope everything’s working out well for you. I’m looking forward to catching up on the posts. How did I rate the honor of a link here?

  2. busaboy Says:

    I’m sure you will, but just in case; let us know if this passes, I’ve always wanted to own a private police department.

    Citizens be aware!

  3. wmoon Says:

    I will let people know–but if the bill passes as written, the government would still be allowed to have police departments. So your dream would have to wait until government isn’t allowed to have that function either.

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