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NE- Motorcycle helmet repeal issue returns to Legislature‏

January 27, 2010

Motorcycle helmet repeal issue returns to Legislature

Like “Rocky” and “Saw,” the issue of repealing Nebraska’s motorcycle helmet law is back.

Senators likely will debate another version of helmet repeal legislation early this year.

On Tuesday, four members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee voted to send the bill to the full Legislature. Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha was not at the meeting, but he is expected to cast the fifth vote needed.

“I anticipate the bill will move to the floor and get debate,” said Valentine Sen. Deb Fischer, chairwoman of the committee.

Since 1989, when the state’s helmet law began, there have been annual attempts to have it repealed, although not every bill made it to the floor for debate. This decade senators have debated a helmet repeal bill on the floor at least twice, most recently in 2008 when the repeal measure fell two votes short of getting first-round approval.

This repeal bill (LB200), introduced last year and carried over to this session, would eliminate the helmet requirement for drivers and passengers at least 21 years old.

The original version of the bill allows a younger driver to go without a helmet after passing a motorcycle safety course. But Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, sponsor of the bill, said he will seek an amendment that will limit the repeal to drivers 21 and older. That avoids an estimated $32,000 in programming costs so licenses of minors who passed the class would say, “helmet not required,” Janssen said.

Janssen said he is not a motorcyclist. “I don’t ride, and if I did I would wear a helmet.”

But he believes that is a personal choice. Motorcyclists who supported him and rode in parades during his campaign had to wear helmets even at those low speeds, he said.

One argument he expects to hear — that people not wearing helmets who are injured will cost taxpayers — is a bad one and not true, he said.

Currently 31 states allow motorcyclists to make that decision, whether to wear a helmet or not. That’s one more state than a year ago, Janssen said.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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