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Right to Repair passed, but does NOT include Motorcycles

Published on 8/11/2012


MMA Update: Right to Repair passed, but does NOT include Motorcycles


On August 7th, the Right to Repair Coalition reported that Governor Patrick had signed House Bill 4362, “An Act protecting motor vehicle owners and small businesses in repairing motor vehicles”, more commonly referred to as “Right to Repair”, into law.  Touting this as a major victory, the enacted law sadly excludes Motorcycles.


The 3 year effort, led by a coalition of 40 members, which saw a tremendous push this past year including over 120,000 signatures on an initiative petition, 50,000 letters and post cards sent to legislators, and significant lobbying at the State House.  The coalition included mostly independent auto repair and parts dealers, but also included the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA) and a few independent Motorcycle Repair shops.


Against heavy lobbying by the Automotive and Motorcycle Manufacturers, the Coalition led a strong campaign of public sentiment and was successful in leading a petition initiative to move the bill beyond being stalled in Committee by forcing it to a Ballot Question in November.  The Bill changed forms several times as the Massachusetts Legislature finally took action following the petition’s filing from the original Senate Bill 104 and House Bill 102 to House Bill 1016, House Bill 3882 to Senate Bill 2204, and eventually House Bill 4362 as it worked its way through the process.


The major sticking point, it seemed was the mandate to enact SAE j2534, an interface standard which would require all motor vehicle manufacturers to include in their vehicles beginning with specific model years, currently set to 2018.  The j2534 interface would eliminate the need for unique tools to be purchased for each vehicle, requiring only access to the codes themselves to be purchased for a “reasonable” fee.  With a few exceptions, such as immobilizers, the MMA endorsed this approach given that there are several years ahead for Motorcycle Manufacturers to comply as well.


The MMA reported to its members during this process that a “compromise” bill was led by State Senator Thomas Kennedy which excluded Motorcycles; a bill that was read and passed in a late evening session in the State Senate.  Motorcycles were subsequently restored with the initial help of the coalition when the Bill reached the House, but a major breakthrough was revealed late in the process with a compromise being reached with the Automobile Manufacturers.  With no such compromise pending with Motorcycle Manufacturers, the coalition lobbyists agreed, without consulting the MMA, to allow the exclusion of Motorcycles once again.  In a hurried push in the election year, despite strong opposition from the MMA, the coalition continued to move the bill forward while pledging their support for Motorcyclists.  Governor Patrick then signed the bill into law within days, bowing to overwhelming public pressure without realizing that an entire segment of the population or intent of the bill was excluded.


The exclusion, which removes motorcycles from the definition of Motor Vehicles in Chapter 93J, sets a dangerous precedent for the quarter of a million vehicles on the road paying vehicle excise taxes, registration fees, requiring specialized safety equipment and licensing.  On one hand, the Ballot Question still remains (currently listed as “Question 1” on the MA Ballot in November) and does NOT exclude Motorcycles, but it seems as though the way the new law is written, the ballot may not override that exclusion.


The MMA has committed to fight this exclusion including in the next legislative session beginning in January.


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