Attempt to repeal helmet law stalls

A bill that would no longer require motorcyclists to wear helmets stalled during the first stage of debate March 23.

Introduced by Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield, LB31 would repeal the law that requires motorcycle and moped operators and passengers to wear a helmet.

In addition to benefitting the state economically by increasing tourism, Bloomfield said, repealing the helmet law could improve motorcycle safety because some helmets reduce drivers’ visibility and hearing.

“Accidents happen when those two things go away,” Bloomfield said.

Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz spoke in support of the bill. Without a helmet law, he said, Nebraska would become a more attractive tourist destination for the 500,000 registered motorcyclists who live in surrounding states. Tourists are estimated to spend $150 per day while vacationing in the state, he said, so Nebraska would enjoy a substantial economic boost from attracting them as new visitors.

“Our economy runs on people spending money,” Schilz said.

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks disagreed, saying statistics regarding the number of motorcycle riders passing through the state to Sturgis, S.D., for example, have been inflated. Figures supplied by an AAA representative during committee testimony estimated that fewer than 11,000 motorcyclists would contribute tourism dollars to Nebraska communities, she said.

“This is not a big economic issue to our state,” Pansing Brooks said.

North Platte Sen. Mike Groene also spoke in favor of the bill, saying that if legislators are highly concerned with keeping motorcyclists safe, they also should consider regulating other risky activities such as bicycling.

“If we are going to be our neighbor’s keeper, how far do you want to go?” Groene asked.

Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha opposed the bill, saying many of the liberties that people enjoy are accompanied by regulations and responsibilities, such as wearing a seatbelt while driving.

“We don’t know when that accident is going to happen,” Hilkemann said. “That’s the reason we protect ourselves—just in case.”

After eight hours of debate spanning three days, Bloomfield filed a motion to invoke cloture, which would cease debate and force a vote on the bill. The motion failed 24-18, as 33 votes were needed.

A failed cloture motion results in debate on a bill ceasing for the day. It is unlikely that the bill will be scheduled for debate again this session.

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