I enjoy researching the topics I post on motorcycle history, especially those amazing accomplishments by women during a time when they were considered inferior citizens, but today my topic is a depressing one.  Depressing though it may be it is an essential one in order to explain why as riders, ABATE members, and concerned citizens this is the worst time in our lifetime to expect any significant legal changes with respect to motorcycle safety and motorists’ awareness of motorcycles.

Most people have no real concept of what agencies such as the Alabama Department of Public Health do, and no idea what a bare-bones budget for state departments will mean to the citizens of Alabama.  Let me enlighten you.  ADPH is responsible for the following areas of concern, among others.

*  Control of contagious disease.  Cholera and typhoid are infectious diseases caused by ingesting food or drinking water contaminated through the feces of an infected person.  Before public health basically eradicated such diseases by controlling situations which caused or spread them, cholera and typhoid killed indiscriminately.  Major cut-backs in the budget may mean suspension or restriction on cesspool inspections which control the spread of such diseases.   ADPH is also the authority that investigates possible outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis.

*  ADPH is the lead agency for healthcare organizations that provide patient care following a natural disaster.  Would significant cutbacks in the budget mean reduced quality or increased response time following a tornado outbreak or hurricane?

*  The proposed budget cuts could mean cutting back on nursing home inspections.   Abuse can be physical or non-physical such as the case near Montgomery in which an administrator stole over $100,000. by using the identities (via Social Security numbers) of residents in the facility.  ADPH is the agency that inspects these facilities and investigates alleged cases of abuse.

*  Restaurant inspections keep proprietors on their toes with regard to unsanitary conditions where food is prepared.  That can be raw meat or cooked food held at temperatures that promote spoilage, mold growing in an un-cleaned drink dispensor or ice machine, or sewage backed up in a facility where food is prepared and served.  The proposed budget cuts could mean cut-backs in these inspections putting anyone who eats at a public restaurant at risk for food poisoning.

There are currently multiple bills and companion bills pending in the Alabama legislature which will have a direct or indirect impact on the economy and funding for health care, citizen safety through the legal system, state employee retirement and/or lay-offs, and other essential services in the State of Alabama.   I counted at least 27 such bills, and that may not be a complete and accurate count.

The budget cut proposals reported as of April 11, 2012 include:

  1.  A cut of 30.78% for the Courts
  2. A cut of 12.40% for the Dept. of Agriculture
  3. A cut of 10.19% for the Dept. of Corrections
  4. An increase of 2.84% for District Attorneys
  5. A cut of 42.23% for the Alabama Dept. of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA)
  6. A cut of 12.50% for Forensic Sciences
  7. A cut of 32.12% for the Alabama Dept. of Public Health
  8. A cut of 24.86% for the Dept. of Human Resources (This agency oversees child welfare, food assistance for low income families, adoption, regulation of child support payments, foster care, family assistance, etc.)
  9.  A cut of 30.49% for Medicaid (This agency  pays for medical and long-term care services for low-income pregnant women, children, certain people on Medicare, individuals with disabilities and nursing home residents).
  10. An increase of .74% for the Dept. of Mental Health
  11. A cut of 15.09% for the Dept. of Pardons and Paroles
  12. An increase of 11.30% for the Dept. of Public Safety (which includes a $28 million transfer from the Road and Bridge fund)

As you can see, these are some very serious matters, and if you are a baby-boomer or younger, this is the worst economy you’ve known in your lifetime.  Services Alabama’s citizens have taken for granted for years are teetering on the brink of cancellation.  Our state and our nation are economically crippled and those who are most vulnerable, children and the elderly, stand to suffer the most. 

Ask yourself what the result of cutting food stamps, WIC, family assistance checks, and services which provide for medical care and public welfare may be, while simultaneously cutting funding for our justice system by whittling away at the budget for the Dept. of Corrections, Forensic Sciences, and Pardons and Paroles.    

Take note of what weighty matters our legislators are concentrating on at present, and try to understand the demands on them as they work through the issues.  Resolve to maintain a positive attitude, work together for a common good as riders, and realize that little is going to happen to significantly improve riding conditions in our state overnight, but by working together in an environment of understanding, patience, cooperation, tolerance, and camaraderie we can make positive changes happen over time.     

Let’s look at a few practical steps we can take.

As riders, we can use the list of known road hazards on the BamaRides web page so we’re not caught unaware when we encounter unsafe road conditions, encourage fellow riders to take rider training courses so we can do everything possible to protect ourselves, encourage high school students on the dangers of distracted driving before they develop a lifetime of careless driving habits, offer to speak to civic groups on the importance of motorist awareness, encourage fellow riders to join groups like ABATE and take advantage of safety messages  offered through groups such as GWRRA, support legislation to stop distracted driving, and plan and SUPPORT activities such as Dixie ABATE’s Ride to the Capitol on April 28, 2012 to draw attention to the need for safety and awareness throughout Alabama.    

Ride Safe.  Vrumblesramblingbikerblog.wordpress.com