Lawmaker: Review Motorcycle Safety Spending
A state legislator will ask a joint legislative committee on to review how state-collected money that goes to a motorcycle safety group is being spent, saying he thinks it's being wasted.Reporter: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
HE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Sept. 30, 2011 -
David Royse, The News Service of Florida
A state legislator will ask a joint legislative committee on Monday to review how state-collected money that goes to a motorcycle safety group is being spent, saying he thinks it's being wasted.
The joint Legislative Auditing Committee will discuss Rep. Bryan Nelson's request for an audit of the $250,000 that is collected in $2.50 increments from motorcycle riders when they renew their registration. Nelson said the money, which is given to a private group, ABATE, is spent on "trinkets" that he doesn't believe improve motorcycle safety.
The group's spending on the program was already reviewed by an independent auditor who said the company appears to be at least complying with its contract with the state.
The president of ABATE, James "Doc" Reichenbach, said pointed to that audit's finding, and while acknowledging the money does go to buy things like refrigerator magnets and key chains, he says the campaign is working, citing declining motorcycle crash deaths.
"That's exactly what it's used for," Reichenbach told the News Service. "We have key chains that say 'Watch for motorcycles.' We have magnets, same thing.
"We have to use (the money) for safety we cannot use it for lobbying, which we don't. But every penny is accounted for," Reichenbach said.
Nelson, however, doubts that such "trinkets" work to reduce motorcyclist injuries and deaths, and questions whether it is a good use of the money which is essentially a tax on motorcyclists is what Nelson wants to know. He is inclined to think not. He suggested that it may be a better idea to reduce the motorcycle fee by the $2.50.
"It's one thing if you want to do safety seminars, but when you're giving out trinkets and stuff, come on," said Nelson, R-Apopka. "Somebody must own one of those trinket companies.. It's a bunch of stuff that has no business being part of a government program."
But Reichenbach said the reminders do work and the evidence is in motorcycle crash data.
"Deaths have gone down every year," Reichenbach said. "They went down 24 percent three years ago."
ABATE got $250,000 from the motorcycle registration fees this year.
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles released a copy of the outside audit that was done on the ABATE program and sent to the agency in July. It doesn't address the actual effectiveness of the campaign, and doesn't address motorcycle crash outcomes.
But the audit does note that the contract with ABATE spelled out what the money could be used for, and one of those approved expenditures is for "material for promotion of biker safety."
"In my opinion, ABATE of Florida, Inc., has disbursed funds in accordance with the requirements of the contractual agreement," the auditor, Michael E. Steuer, CPA, wrote in the audit summary.
The contract with ABATE also specifically allows the money to be spent on "any other needs with the express purpose of promoting biker safety/training to include promotional products."
In addition to key chains, kickstand pads and magnets, the group also spends some of the money on billboards, radio ads, bus ads and other informational items, according to the audit and Reichenbach.
Reichenbach said he welcomed the scrutiny.
"Everything is on the up and up and we can prove it," he said.