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Senate president questions MoDOT director’s anti-helmet lobbying

May 25, 2009

Senate president questions MoDOT director’s anti-helmet lobbying

Missouri Transportation Director Pete Rahn doesn’t want to get in an argument with state Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields.

But Rahn disagrees with Shields’ complaint — detailed in a Friday news release — that Rahn “has overstepped his bounds as an un-elected bureaucrat when it comes to the helmet law.”

The St. Joseph Republican questioned Rahn’s and MoDOT’s work in holding a news conference Wednesday that urged Gov. Jay Nixon to veto a bill that would change Missouri’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law requirements.

“I am alarmed that an appointed bureaucrat would use taxpayer money to pay for polling,” Shields said in the news release, “and then hold a press conference while on the clock to oppose a specific piece of legislation.

“The last time I checked, laws are written by the people’s elected representatives to the state House and Senate, and the governor then has the power to approve or veto the laws they pass that represent the will of the people.”

Senators passed the bill 23-6, while the House endorsed it on a 95-63 vote. Springfield-based Abacus Associates did a telephone poll with 2,050 Missourians — a larger sample than many national polling firms use.

The poll showed 84 percent of Missourians support the current law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, while only 9 percent want Nixon to sign into law the changes lawmakers approved this spring.

The survey also showed 75 percent of those who have ridden a motorcycle in the past year support the law requiring helmet use.

It has a nearly 3 percent margin of error.

Rahn said Friday he wanted to avoid “a ‘he-said/she-said’ with a senator,” but did agree to respond to Shields’ comments.

“We used federal safety funds — and safety polls are certainly within the realm of the appropriate use of those funds,” Rahn said.

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