A member of Havre’s City Council asked area legislators during a legislative video conference in Havre Tuesday if bills proposed by a Great Falls state senator might not raise more problems than they would solve.
“It’s kind of one of those unintended consequences deals, ” he said.
Dow asked about a bill by Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, whom Dow called a rising star of the Democratic party, dealing with concussions in student athletes.
He also asked about another bill proposed by Blewett to require
the Montana Department of Transportation to include “Complete Street” principles in its future planning.
That bill would require planning for use by bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians including handicap access and transit systems. Blewett said that would generally only impact urban areas of the state.
Great Falls last year voted against officially adopting Complete Street principles, although city officials say those issues are considered during planning. Many other major Montana cities have adopted Complete Street programs.
Dow said it appears Blewett is jumping on the bandwagon and following the lead of the other U. S. states and communities that have passed Complete Street requirements.
He added that a representative of a health group in Havre, Kay Nessland, spoke at Monday’s City Council meeting asking the city to help provide access to bikes.
“Is this the role of government? ” he asked at the video conference.
Dow said the Centers for Disease Control lists bicycling as the No. 1 cause of traumatic brain injury in children. Would Blewett’s bill lead to mandatory helmet laws, he asked?
“I would encourage you guys to kind of focus on the budget and things that are tantamount to running the state, ” Dow said, “and not expanding the government’s role in our lives as much and I think these are, however good-intentioned … Sen. Blewett (might think) these two bills are, I think are ripe with unintended consequences … (like the idea) the state needs to protect us from ourselves. ”
State Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, said the intent is to prevent injuries, not require helmets.
“People are going to be riding their bikes. Period, ” Jergeson said. “And the question is, whether or not the streets where they’re going to be riding their bikes are safe and are there ways to encourage this, so the streets are improved … and I think that that ought to be a positive outcome, that you would reduce the number of injuries because people have a safe place to ride their bikes whether they have a helmet on or not. ”
He also said he can’t see why there would be any unintended consequences of making sure athletes don’t play in sports events with a concussion.
Blewett’s concussion bill requires school districts to provide training to coaches, trainers, and student athletes and their families about the signs and dangers of concussions, and that students must be pulled from competition if they show signs of a concussion until their return can be approved by a medical professional.
“I’m trying to fathom why people would think unintended consequence would come from having that kind of an evaluation made, ” Jergeson said.
Dow said the bike paths should be a local decision — if Missoula wants Complete Streets, it should have them, if Great Falls does not, that is the choice of Great Falls.
“You handle things at the most local level possible, ” he said.
He said the concussion problem is a similar issue — it is up to the parents or caregivers to get care for their dependent.
“I don’t understand why this bill is necessary, ” Dow said. “It’s kind of this national movement towards concussions in the NFL, we’re just kind of... too grabbing onto it (because) there’s a national move on it, when we should be focused on power going back to relevant entities. ”