Monday, March 14, 2016

2015 Florida legislative session disappointing for bike/ped and safety advocates

The Florida 2016 Legislative Session ended on March 11th, and was a disappointment for bike/ped and safety advocates, esp. the failure to pass the Vulnerable Users safety bill (aka the Passidomo bike safety bill).

In October 2015, BikeWalkLee sent a letter to the Lee County State Legislative Delegation, outlining our requests for the coming session and we followed up by testifying at the annual Lee County Legislative Delegation in Oct. 2015.  In February, BikeWalkLee issued its 2016-17 priorities, which re-affirmed how state legislators could assist in addressing major bike/ped safety issues in Florida. Several times throughout the session, BikeWalkLee communicated its views to the Lee Legislative delegation (see below).  
2016 FL Legislative Outcomes for Bike/Ped bills:
Below is an assessment of how legislation we supported or opposed fared: 

1.  Vulnerable Users Safety bill (HB 231/SB 332):  This bike safety bill was BikeWalkLee's top legislative priority both this year and last year. While Rep. Passidomo worked hard to get this bill passed, Rep. Oliva (Miami)'s amendment in the last committee removed some important provisions in the House bill; and in a Feb. 20th letter to the delegation, we urged our members to support the Senate version of the bill (SB 332).

    According to the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA)'s March 14th report (from their Tally lobbyist, Capitol Alliance Group),
    "During the last week of Session there was a successful attempt by the House to add the vulnerable road user language to one the “Transportation Trains” (HB 1394). HB 7061 ultimately became the official “Transportation Train” however our vulnerable road user language was not included in Senator Brandes’ strike-all amendment due to continuing disagreements between the two chambers. The vulnerable user language in Rep. Passidomo's bill was included in one of the last two transportation bills on the special order calendar in the Senate on Friday. However, the bill had too many amendments and the House did not want to take it up. Consequently, the language did not pass. We worked closely with the Rep and Senator Richter to try to get it done, but the House and Senate only passed one major highway safety bill and it had very little in it. Passidomo indicated she would refile the bill next year with more targeted language. The whole motorcycle issue was also one of the hang ups she wants to avoid next year.... After conversations with Representative Passidomo, we remain confident in successfully passing language to protect our cyclists next session."

    2. FBA funding. In February, in a surprise move, Senator Brandes offered an amendment which was attached to SB 7062, which eliminated FBA from receiving any of the proceeds generated by the Share the Road license plate. The FBA team successfully spearheaded efforts to restore this funding, and BWL sent a letter on Feb. 14th urging the committee to delete this provision.

    This was good news for the bike/ped community since these funds are used by FBA for their bicycle safety outreach program. However, the action just succeeded in keeping a bad thing from happening, not making progress to make Florida safer for walkers and cyclists.

    3. Distracted Driving. Another of BWL's longstanding legislative priorities has been to strengthen the laws against distracted driving, strengthen the 2012 ban on texting while driving by making it a primary offense. Bills were introduced (SB 328 and HB 537) to make it a primary offense but they didn't move. There were several bills dealing with enhancing penalties for drivers violating the texting ban in school zones but those bills died, too.

    4. Other bike/ped safety bills. There were several other minor bills proposed related to specific issues (e.g. lighted bicycle ways, safety paths to school program, and guardrail safety) but all of them died.

    Report by Darla Letourneau
    Links to related blog posts:

    FBA's full 2016 Legislative Report (add)

    BWL's 2/14/16 letter in opposition to Sen. Brandes amendment excluding FBA from Share the Road license plate proceeds.

    BWL Blog, Feb. 20, 2016: BikeWalkLee urges Lee State Legislative Delegation to support Senate version of Passidomo's Vulnerable Users safety bill.

    BWL Blog, Oct. 17, 2015: Lee MPO sends letter to Lee Legislative Delegation in support of Bike Safety Bill (HB 253)

    BWL Blog, Oct. 12, 2015: BikeWalkLee asks Lee Legislative Delegation to strengthen bike/ped safety laws

    BWL Blog, Sept. 29, 2015: Rep. Passidomo refiles bicycle safety bill

    BWL Blog, March 25, 2015: Update on HB 231: Rep. Passidomo's bike safety bill

    BWL Blog, March 7, 2015: News-Press Editorial: Cyclists deserve to be protected, safe

    BWL Blog, Jan. 23, 2015: The birth of a bill to protect cyclists, walker

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