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NE – Helmets still rule the road

February 11, 2010

Helmets still rule the road

LINCOLN — Repeal of Nebraska’s mandatory helmet law crashed and burned against a wall of opposition in the Nebraska Legislature today.

Backers of the repeal fell short of the votes needed to cut off a filibuster on Legislative Bill 200. They needed 33 votes to end the debate. They got 27.

The vote represents another setback for those who have sought repeatedly to win the freedom to ride with the wind in their hair.

State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, who introduced the bill, said he was disappointed that the bill did not get an up-or-down vote on its merits.

He said the bill would have been able to advance.

Janssen tried to find a compromise that would win votes through Wednesday.

He offered an amendment that would allow motorcycle riders age 21 and older to go without helmets if they had at least $1 million worth of health insurance coverage.

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The proposals would not have required coverage for riders who wore helmetsl. A previous proposal would have required all riders to carry such insurance.

Under his latest amendment, younger riders would still have had to wear helmets, and all riders and passengers would have to wear eye protection.

It also had a sunset provision under which the helmet requirement would go into effect again after five years.

The debate, which stretched over five mornings, focussed on freedom, responsibility, risk and societal good.

Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln said he was willing to consider the latest version of the bill. He has opposed the repeal because of the possibility that society would bear the cost for a greater number of injured riders.

Other speakers appeared to be little swayed by Janssen’s latest offering.

Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege said injured riders would raise health premiums for other people in the same insurance group.

“I don’t want to pay for your foolishness of not wearing a helmet,” he said.

Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha said the issue was one of freedom, personal choice and the tyranny of the majority.

“If you’re willing to step into this and trample on the rights of this minority, whose rights will you trample next?” he asked.

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