Who is Gail Morrison? Part II

In the meantime, I had moved from Texas to South Carolina. My first month in the Carolinas brought me another speeding ticket in North Carolina. Which I also fought - but this time I won.

First, I traveled from my home in SC to Wisconsin where NMA is home based in October of 1994 to discuss this with him. While returning home I drove through Washington, D.C. so I could get a feel of the 'lay of the land' if you will. I met with the current NMA lobbyist, who was forthright in telling me that "you are not needed on this issue." He went on to tell me, "you cannot use my office, you cannot receive phone calls or mail, you cannot store anything at my office," the clincher was when he leaned forward and said "you cannot even use the bathroom." I replied, "I guess I will have to find a place of my own on the Hill, won't I?" To which he said. "You won't be able to afford it." I don't know if he was serious or joking, but he picked up the check for lunch and later we became good friends.

Leaving the restaurant and my new colleague, I walked around the block. I spoke with a woman working in her front yard, and told her of my quest. She said she was renovating an apartment, but that it wouldn't be ready until December. I was delighted, as I would not be moving to the District until then; I felt that an apartment on Capitol Hill would be ideal to set up a viable office and adequate space to live in. I knew that I would need to be close to the House and the Senate offices in order to be swift and effective. This proved to be true over and over. I voiced my need for three needs in an apartment: 1) rent limit to $600; 2) they would accept my dog and cat; and 3) a parking space. I knew parking would be horrendous in DC. The lady took me out back of the house and showed me an overgrown space, and told me that if I wanted to clean it out I could use it for a parking space. Done! I sensed that I had stumbled into a rare find, so I signed the lease on the spot. Then, I returned to where I had been living in Greenville, South Carolina.
On the first of December I packed up my belonging, and I loaded them into a 24' Ryder truck. On December 5, I got behind the wheel of a truck for the first time in my life and driving alone, except for my dog and cat, to Washington, D.C. Slowly at first. Then I told myself that if I didn't speed up, I would never get to DC. At times I would think, surely I had taken leave of my senses. Whoever heard of anyone uprooting themselves as I was doing for a cause that most people did not think could be achieved and would not know what I had done after it was over?

When I arrived in Washington, I was awed by history of the area and the importance of the Members of Congress. I felt very small and insignificant by comparison. Yet, I believed so strongly that the NMSL was a bad law that I felt compelled to change it. . 'Fundamental to most laws in America is the thought that the behavior of a majority of people is reasonable. Laws are written to single out the unreasonable behavior of a minority of the population. Speed laws are based on the same ideas. Most people did not observe this law. It made criminals out of most motorists, leaving us with the dilemma of deciding if we should drive a safe speed - the free-flow of the traffic is the safest speed, or a legal speed.

The first thing that I need to do was to find someone to introduce a bill to repeal the National Maximum Speed Limits. Scott Klugg, R-WI introduced HR607 on January 20, 1995, but I felt it wouldn't get the support it needed to pass. It read a bill to amend title 23, United States Code, to eliminate penalties for noncompliance by States with requirements relating to the use of safety belts and motor cycle helmets, the national maximum speed limit, and the national minimum drinking age, and for other purposes. The reason I didn't put NMA support behind this bill was: 1) I knew the motorcycle groups had strong, active lobbying efforts to get the repeal of the helmet law; 2) NMA membership is divided on the seat belt issue; the most important part was 3) The alcohol issue would not be popular.
Pat Roberts, R-KS said that he would introduce a bill, but then reneged and suggested that he offer HR 1007, which would be a bill to allow 65 mph in an urbanized area of 50,000 populations that could now only be posted at 55 mph. I quickly withdrew NMA support from this bill, believing this bill to be as a mockery.
In January 1995, I visited Larry Combest, R-TX office. I spoke with his Legislative Assistant, Lisa Elledge, who was handling transportation issues. She told me Larry offered a bill every year for - -maybe for five or six years now, for a repeal of the NMSL. It was sort of an office joke she said, but he really wanted the repeal. I felt HR 427 was the bill to get behind and push it as hard as I could. Lisa later wrote in a letter of recommendation for me ". . . Without Gail's active involvement, the NMSL repeal would not have occurred. . . ." Representative Combest wrote, ". . . . Gail exhibited unfailing dedication . . . was an indefatigable and knowledgeable worker, who tirelessly toiled to see our common goal achieved, as language to repeal the NMSL was finally signed into law this year. . . ."
The Surface Transportation subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing for changes in the National Highway (NHS) was to be held on March 1, 1995. I had visited all the offices of the members of the subcommittee. I knew enough now to know that the leadership on both sides was against repealing NMSL. I also knew that the leadership for NHTSA, FHwA, insurance companies and 144 safety groups were also against the repeal. I was told that ". . . NMSL was cast in concrete - it had been in effect for 23 years, and would NEVER be repealed. . ." I knew that I needed something to break this mind set - but I didn't know what. At first I thought if I just visited the opposing members and talked logic to them that they would see the error of their ways - but I quickly realize the proverbial "My mind is made up - - don't confuse me with facts" mentality. Besides, time was running out. I needed a member of the House subcommittee to offer the amendment. Bill Brewster, D- OK agreed to offer it. This later proved to be a blessing, as Norman Y. Mineta, D-CA was going to call a Party unity against the bill - and because Mr. Brewster had agreed to offer it and he was a Democrat Mr. Mineta had to drop this idea. Representative Brewster wrote ". . . Gail is a very persistent and dedicated lobbyist. . . tenacious and devoted to her goal."
I knew it would be helpful if I could get support from some of the leadership. Tom Petri, R-WI was an ideal choice, as he represented the state of the headquarters of NMA and he was the chairman of the Surface Transportation committee. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure later wrote " . . . It was clear that she was tireless and relentless in her efforts in pursuing, and ultimately achieving, her goal. Gail played an important role in the overwhelming vote by the House to repeal the national maximum speed limit. . . ."
The committee meeting was coming soon and I needed to find someone to give testimony at the subcommittee hearing. First I phoned Jim Baxter to see if he would come to Washington DC and give it, but he suggested that I ask Mr. Martin Parker of Martin R. Parker & Associates, Inc., Wayne, Michigan. I then called Dr. Parker. He declined, saying that he would need his study in order to testify. The title of his study was 'The effects of Raising and Lowering Speed Limits.' He had been enlisted to conduct by the Office of Safety and Traffic Operations R&D, Federal Highway Administration (FHwA). I asked him where his study was. He told me that it was being review by Transportation Research Board (TRB). I started telephoning people and getting the proverbial run-around. I finally talked with Margarite the secretary for Stephen Godwin, Director of Studies and Information. She made me an appointment for that afternoon to visit with Mr. Godwin.

To be continued . . .