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Government, Politics & Issues

Shields tells Rahn: Drop public opposition to motorcycle helmet bill

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 22, 2009 - Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn is getting a bit of a slap-down from state Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph.

Shields takes issue with Rahn's call this week for Gov. Jay Nixon to veto a bill that would allow motorcycle users to ride without a helmet, as long as they are over 21 and not on an interstate.

According to the Associated Press, (a hat tip to Combest) Nixon has been flooded with e-mails lobbying for and against the measure. (The AP says the pro-no-helmet camp was outsending the opponents, 7-1.)

In a statement, Shields said that Rahn "has overstepped his bounds as an un-elected bureaucrat when it comes to the helmet law.

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

Still, Shields sought to soften his jab with a bit of praise. "I appreciate that Pete has taken us from a sub-par state to one that is now recognized for smoother, better roads,” Shields said.

“That is why I encourage him to refocus his efforts on continuing to build and improve Missouri's roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure, because this is the second instance this year where he has veered off-track by misusing taxpayer dollars in an effort to lobby elected officials.”

The first instance, said Shields, was lobbying in the Capitol by state Transportation Department employees on behalf of stricter seatbelt laws. The department had acknowledged that the employees were doing so on state time.

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