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March 17th Lobby Day Report

Legislative warriors of ABATE of South Carolina rode iron steeds to the Statehouse to do battle in defense of the civil liberties of all South Carolinians .

Over a half dozen bikers took to the halls of the Gressette Building lobbying state senators before 9 am. By 9:30 over forty bikers joined the tour of ALL senate and representative offices. Staffers of many senators knew why we were there and mentioned that someone must have tipped us off that the primary enforcement seat belt would be debated. ALL senators each received two personal letters from the State Coordinator of ABATE of SC; one letter opposed primary seat belt enforcement while the other supported and request sponsorship of Senate Right-of-Way Bill 418. Many ABATE members brought personal letters for senators both written by themselves and others unable to attend.

The team work of the ABATE members and other concerned bikers and citizens was inspiring. Senator Ford introduced us to the SCDOT lobbyists and told us these folks are responsible for the poor condition of SC's roads. Sadly these SCDOT lobbyists would rather lobby to take away your rights rather than make our roads safer; many ABATE members spoke at length with the SCDOT folks. Senators Ravenel and Branton greeted us warmly as we visited their floor; unlike some senators we to not have to seek them out as they are more than happy to speak with us.

By 11:00 am all letters had been delivered to the senators; we had the opportunity to speak with many senators both those who support us and others who do not. Many bikers present took a smoke break while others of us feed the parking meters of those working the halls.

Next the legislative warriors marched the halls of the Blatt building and visited the few staffers present while leaving many letters for the representatives. ALL representatives received personal letters from the State Coordinator of ABATE in support of the Senate Tattoo Bill 104 asking the bill be sent back to the floor of the house for passage. Additional letters were delivered to ALL members of committee where the Tattoo Bill resided. Personal letters from the State Coordinator in support of our Right of Way Bill 3653 requesting sponsorship were also given to ALL representatives. Representatives already sponsoring the Right-of-Way Bill were given thank you notes. More special letters were also given to ALL members of the Judiciary Committee where the Right-of-Way Bill currently resides.

Thanks to great teamwork and efforts of our group letters to ALL representatives were delivered in little over 30 minutes. I would like to extend great thanks to those who brought letters from there chapter members asking the house to introduce a Motorcycle Awareness Bill; many present brought various personal letters of their own and friends and deserve the thanks of their fellow members.

Well over 50 bikers were present at the statehouse by noon and many took a lunch break at the Mellow Mushroom and other eateries nearby the state capitol. Our legislative warriors returned to the Statehouse well in advance of the 2 pm start of the session to ensure entry into the gallery. The doors of the Senate Gallery were opened at 1:45 pm and every seat in the gallery was filled by a biker in less than 5 minutes many of our people had to stand as there were not enough seats. By this time over 100 bikers were present and prepared to watch the debate on the primary seat belt bill and help deter any helmet amendment.

Senator Ravenel took to the floor and introduced our group before Senator Branton could enter the chamber and introduce us all individually; Ravenel certainly meant well and is one of our supporters in the senate. Shortly afterwards Senator Branton asked that all thos present in the gallery opposing primary seat belt enforcement to rise and once again introduced the membership of ABATE present. Members of ABATE applauded Senators Branton, McConnell, and others defending our freedoms; this angered Senator Thomas Moore who called for an executive session. Everyone other than the senators were removed from the chamber. We were ultimately allowed to return to the floor but lost some seats to the lobbyists of our opposition.

Those desiring to pass a primary seat belt bill asked that the bill not be addressed till the following day. This is the third time that the senators choose not to debate this legislation in front of the voting public; but those cowards did bring it up the next day following our visit.

After the session was ended early to prevent us from hearing their debate to rob yet another civil liberty ABATE members met on the steps of the statehouse. Many bikers decided to go back to the senate offices to speak with senators again. Senator Courson requested to speak with our State Coordinator. I insisted two other leaders in ABATE be allowed to attend the private meeting. The Chapter Coordinators of Barnwell and Lexington were allowed to take part. Clay, Dean, and I had a productive meeting with Senator Courson. The senator supports the primary seat belt bill but seems to have some doubts; if enough ABATE members contact him asking him to oppose this bill he may change his mind. The senator does support all of our other bills and opposes a helmet bill so please keep ALL contact with him friendly.

Senator McConnell spoke with us on our way out of the Gressette building after dark. McConnell thank us for taking part in our government and told us we are the last chance for the defense of liberty. Senator McConnell assured us he will help remind the other senators that not only do we lobby the Statehouse in number BUT we also turn out to vote and influence our friends. Many of the legislative warriors arrived before 9 AM and did not leave the Statehouse till well after 7 PM.

Have I done all I can to defend liberty and biker right? No but I am trying! I have seen too many of the same faces at all three of the long days I and others spent at the statehouse lobbying; unless other rise to the call and lobby for our rights we will lose another liberty and face the threat of a helmet bill next.

FastFred Ruddock
ABATE of South Carolina State Coordinator

More lobby day comments:

In addition to Fred's fine report, I'd like to add that upon my return home. my wife said she'd heard Charleston 's WCSC Channel 5 report that the debate on the seat belt bill was tabled BECAUSE of an outburst from the gallery when a senator (Branton) asked all if we liked our freedom. Branton DID ask, we DID applaud and at his request stood up (...if we liked freedom, duh). That occurred about halfway through the afternoon, even before the second feeding of the meters! The debate was postponed some time later, so the reported "outburst" ad the postponement are absolutely unconnected. Therefore, if you're in an e-mail or letter writing mode, pop one off to WCSC as well, if you feel like it.

It was great to see so many fellow members present and working to preserve our rights yesterday. Seeing our lawmakers in action, or lawmakers' INACTION, was another matter. We definitely made an impression. I hope these bozos realize we each represented a lot of like-minded, registered voters. They need to hear from every one of us, so call out your chapters, keep the pressure on.

Ride On,

Chris Sos
Barrier Islands

FF Note: Here's how to contact WCSC:

2126 Charlie Hall Blvd.
Charleston , SC 29414
(843) 402-5555

Lobbying pays off

Just got home from Columbia lobbying our State Senators to vote against the primary seatbelt bill.  Although they once again postponed the vote, it wasn't a total waste.  We were recognized for being there by two Senators, Branton and Revenel.  We let them know we were there by our loud cheers and call from freedoms.  We had the gallery overflowing with leather until they called for an executive session which then allowed several lobbyist to invade our spaces.  There were several heated discussions during the break between some of our members and some of the pro seatbelt lobbyist. 

When I checked the House report for the day, I found two pieces of great news.  First we picked up a new sponsor for our R.O.W. bill in the house and secondly the Tattoo bill came back out of committee, so I guess now it will go to the House floor for a vote.  Time to get busy writing letters and calling our Senators and Representatives.  The bill in the house coming for a vote on tattoos is S. 0104.  Write your Rep and ask that he support passage of this bill.  And keep on our Senators about the primary seatbelt bill. It ain't over yet.  It is actually starting to get deep.  We now have a very slight majority voting against the seatbelt bill, but only by 2 votes.  Write your letters to shore up support against the bill and get the fence-sitters to step over to our side.  There is freedom in numbers and defeat if we remain passive and apathetic.  keep you eyes and ears open.  Ride free and safe

Coordinator-ABATE of Barnwell , S.C.

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