Ed Rendell: Pro-Choice on More Than Abortion

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While researching a column on motorcycle helmet laws and "public health" nannyism (tied to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's recent crash), I came across a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story that left me with my first positive impression of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell:

Gov. Ed Rendell, who signed the 2003 legislation that relaxed helmet-wearing requirements, remains firm that adult bikers like…Mr. Roethlisberger should have that choice [of whether to wear a helmet].

Government should allow individuals to make many personal choices, from smoking cigarettes to drinking alcohol to driving motorcycles, without interference, he said.

"Ben Roethlisberger is a very smart, intelligent guy, and he made a decision for himself," Mr. Rendell said during a public appearance in Sewickley. "Government has the responsibility to tell people about the facts and then let them make the choices."

I don't know how sincere Rendell is; he may just be placating helmet law opponents, a relatively small but highly motivated group. Either way, it's nice to hear.

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  1. (Minor threadjack)

    Pennsylvania may be cool with helmets, but they’re nutso when it comes to vehicle window tinting.

    If I’m not mistaken, you can’t have ANY tint on your windows in Pennsylvania, and they’ll pull your ass over even if you’re from out of state.

    That should be the next Libertarian bloody shirt: window tint.

  2. I can only hope that he also believes that people should be able to have that kind of choice in other aspects of their life, like drugs, hiring practices, and what kind of food they wish to eat.

  3. Maybe or maybe not, Tseren, but if we can at least get some agreement in the public sphere with the premise “adults are allowed to decide things about their own bodies”, that’s progress.

  4. The Gannett-based news service in my office elevator is currently running this poll (I find the results surprisingly encouraging):

    Should motorcyclists be required to wear helmets?

    Should be the rider’s decision – 71%
    States should decide – 6%
    There should be a federal law – 23%

  5. “Government has [b]the responsibility to tell people about the facts[/b] and then let them make the choices.”

    o, the horror the horrors! Tell the facts! Tell the Facts?!?!? Responsibility! That is the worst part of nannystatism. help, help I am being oppressed.

    O, wait, wrong thd. i thought this was the one about harmful food.

  6. According to the latest news, Big Ben did not have a license. It’s illegal in PA for an unlicensed motorcycle driver to ride without a helmet.

    So … do Libertarians believe in drivers licenses?

  7. Yes, I believe that we should have driver’s license and vehicle registration, but it should only be a one time fee.

    If you get a speeding ticket, get caught driving drunk (not buzzed after one beer, but falling down drunk), or do something else that would cause the state to question your driving ability, then you retake the test and pay for it. And with vehicle registration, you pay once to put your vehicle in the system and don’t do anything again unless you sell the car.

    Any other questions?

  8. Window tinting is legal in PA, just not on the front windshield.

  9. linguist –

    While the first question is encouraging, I’m not amazed by the difference between the other questions.

  10. I love the way he didnt back off at all after what could be something that could hurt his chances to be re-elected (there are ALOT of Roethlisberger/Steeler fans in Pennsylvania, obviously). I think this was exactly the right way to handle it, he may even win some votes with this response.

  11. PA is one of two states that don’t allow for any form of drug paraphanelia including pipes. Ask Tommy Chong about that one. I guess no-helmets is a small step, but a step none-the-less toward the ideal of self-determination.

  12. “o, the horror the horrors! Tell the facts! Tell the Facts?!?!? Responsibility! That is the worst part of nannystatism. help, help I am being oppressed.

    O, wait, wrong thd. i thought this was the one about harmful food.”

    Telling the facts in this context probably doesn’t imply an obligation to spend billions on studies and labeling to address every statistically insignificant potential harm that can be dreamed up by the most fevered among us.

  13. By coincidence, there’s a story in today’s P-I with the headline:

    Biker dies in crash after anti-helmet gathering

    However, when you actually read the story you discover that he was indeed wearing a helmet. He just happened to hit a pulled-over truck, slid, and then maybe was hit by another truck.

    The spin on this confuses me. Is it just ironic that he was leaving an event like this? That motorcycles are dangerous? Or somehow that, if he had not been wearing a helmet, he would be even deader?

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/274591_motorcycle20.html

  14. As we are speaking, Ed Rendell is about to finally get his way, forcing the Republican legislature to cut property taxes, replacing the revenue with lottery proceeds…

  15. “Government should allow individuals to make many personal choices…”

    Wrong! People should not allow governments to take away personal choices. You can’t ask for liberty.

  16. In pennsylvania, window tinting is legal on the rear windows up to (I think) 30ish opacity, and the front side windows not at all.

    Most times (round here, anyway) you only get shit for being a jerk (genrally) when your front side windows are tinted, or when the officer can’t see your smug mug as you peel rubber.

    Sadly, Rendell’s spirit doesn’t reside anywhere near Philadelphia where they recently passed a smoking ban. This on the last day before council recess, pre-empting any backlash that hampered previous attempts.

    If anyone out there has a lexis/nexus account I’d sure love some samples of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s bitching about council passing other legislation before recess.

  17. Bikers should be free to go helmetless, but insurance companies should be just as free to charge different premiums based upon helmets or have clauses in the policy pertaining to changes in coverage if the rider chooses not to wear a helmet.

  18. Heck, yeah, let the bikers go helmetless if they want. The only requirement I’d put on them is you have automatically volunteered to be an organ donor (for when you slam yourself into the pavement at 60 MPH and splatter your brains across the road).

    I’d have the same attitude about drunk drivers if they had a tendency to only kill themselves. Unfortunately, they usually take other people with them.

    Stupidity should hurt.

  19. I love the way he didnt back off at all after what could be something that could hurt his chances to be re-elected (there are ALOT of Roethlisberger/Steeler fans in Pennsylvania, obviously). I think this was exactly the right way to handle it, he may even win some votes with this response.

    It should be noted that Gov. Rendell is a hardcore Eagles fan. Hmmm…Me thinks a conspiracy. Quick, where is my tinfoil hat!

  20. The case for and against Pennsylvania in a nutshell:

    Con: In addition to being a bastion of union corruption and unvarnished Old-New-Dealism, the Keystone state has elected the likes of Rick Santorum, and before him, Harris Wofford – two of the most revolting excuses for humanity ever to besmirch the halls of Congress.

    Pro: Tastykakes

  21. Jim,

    Let’s put a star next to Wofford’s name: he won the “special election” after being the temporary appointee following John Heinz’s plane crash, but never a regular one.

    I just ate a tastykake for breakfast, though!

  22. Jim:

    Pro: Easy concealed weapon permits. Go to the courthouse, fill out a form, let them run a background check, get your picture taken, pay $17, and walk out with your funcard.

    Con: Everything else.

  23. A friend of my brother is batshit crazy. He actually spent time in an institution.

    And he lectured me at length about wearing a motorcycle helmet, and how incredibly stupid it was to not have one.

    Heavy.

  24. I believe Rendell is an Eagles fan. I remember this coming up when it looked like there was a possibility that the Steelers and Eagles would meet in the Super Bowl in the 2005 playoffs, and also when Lynn Swann was considering running against him. Therefore, he might have less sympathy for injured Steelers QBs than western PA based politicians.

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