(York) — After languishing for more than a year, a House bill calling for Harley-Davidson to be named the state motorcycle of Pennsylvania has been moved before the State Government committee.
The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by 17 Republican and 12 Democratic representatives. Among its York County GOP co-sponsors are representatives Keith Gillespie, Majority Appropriations Chair Stan Saylor, Seth Grove, and Senate candidate Kristin Phillips-Hill, all fervent Trump supporters.
Action on the bill and its Republican support comes at a time when Harley-Davidson has drawn the ire of President Trump for stating it will move some of its manufacturing operations overseas to avoid European Union tariffs.
Harley-Davidson said that tariffs could add more than $2,000 to the manufacturing price of a motorcycle destined for overseas markets.
Two weeks ago, Harley-Davidson told USA Today that moving production overseas is “the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles accessible to customers in the EU and maintain a viable business in Europe.”
Harley-Davidson also recently announced the closing of its Kansas City, Missouri, plant due to sagging sales and an inability to attract the next generation of motorcycle owners.
Meanwhile, York County remains the company’s largest manufacturing facility with some 900 employees.
Political analyst G. Terry Madonna said not to read too much politically into GOP support of the House bill.
“We would like to assign humanitarian and humane motives to our politicians’ actions,” Madonna said on Friday. “But, there’s always an element of politics.”
Madonna said it should not hurt the Republican co-sponsors politically to stand up for a Pennsylvania company in Pennsylvania.
“It’s a private sector company with deep roots in York County,” he said.
At the same time, Madonna said, considering the Kansas City plant closure and the specter of manufacturing Harley-Davidson bikes overseas, the “Pennsylvania politicians may be saying ‘Uh-oh.'”
Madonna said by making Harley-Davidson a Pennsylvania “brand,” “it could make it much more difficult for Harley-Davidson to leave Pennsylvania.”
“They are saying, ‘We value the jobs that are created by Harley, and we value the sales in Pennsylvania,'” Madonna said.
Motorcycles parked outside the Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Factory in York County. (Photo by Lisa Wardle/WITF).
‘This is not a shot at the President’
Rep. William Kortz II, D-Allegheny County, one of the primary co-sponsors, acknowledged the dispute between Trump and Harley-Davidson and admitted on Friday, “It may be poor timing on my part.”
But, Kortz said, “Let me be succinct. This is not a shot at the president. Sincerely, it has nothing to do with that at all.”
Instead, Kortz said, he is “a big Harley rider” and, worked at U.S. Steel when it supplied steel for Harley-Davidson gas tanks and fenders.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, we just never got it passed,” he said. “Really, it’s not as important as the budget.
“But, it’s a way to promote the bikes. It’s good for the economy if we can sell some motorcycles. And, motorcycle riding is not partisan.”
‘A true American icon’
Three months before the bill was introduced, Trump met in Washington with representatives of Harley-Davidson.
Then, he called the motorcycle company “a true American icon, one of the greats.” He added, “So thank you, Harley-Davidson, for building things in America.”
More recently, Trump tweeted, “Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag.”
Trump followed up days later by tweeting, “Harley-Davidson should stay 100% in America, with the people that got you your success. I’ve done so much for you, and then this. Other companies are coming back where they belong! We won’t forget, and neither will your customers or your now very HAPPY competitors!”
Harley-Davidson did not respond to a request for comment about the House bill.
‘True-blue American iron horse’
The House bill states:
“The Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a true-blue American iron horse manufactured in Pennsylvania by American workers using American steel;
“Over the years, thousands of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts have trekked to York to witness firsthand the living legacy of Harley-Davidson USA;
And, “Harley-Davidson continues to sustain a loyal brand community which remains active through clubs, events and the Harley-Davidson Museum.”
Other Pennsylvania symbols
Should the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycle receive designation as the Commonwealth’s state motorcycle, it would join these other, official Pennsylvania symbols:
- State animal — white-tailed deer
- State beverage — milk
- State bird — ruffed grouse
- State colors — blue and gold
- State fish — brook trout
- State dog — Great Dane
- State firearm — Pennsylvania long rifle
- State flower — mountain laurel
- State insect — firefly
- State tree — eastern hemlock
This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.