Transportation and Telecommunications

Transportation bill amended to include repeal of state’s motorcycle helmet law

A Transportation and Telecommunications Committee clean-up bill on final reading was amended to repeal the state’s helmet law for riders age 21 and older after lawmakers voted to return it to select file May 24.

Sen. Ben Hansen
Sen. Ben Hansen

LB138, originally introduced by former Sen. Suzanne Geist and now sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Carolyn Bosn, is an annual clean-up measure to align state transportation law with federal requirements.

As amended during earlier rounds of debate, it includes provisions of Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer’s LB199 to create a new driving privilege card to serve as a license to operate a motor vehicle for individuals who are assigned parolee immigration status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Senators voted to return the bill to select file to consider an amendment from Blair Sen. Ben Hansen to include provisions of his LB91. The amendment would allow an individual age 21 and older who has completed a certified motorcycle safety course to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, provided the rider uses protective eye equipment.

Hansen said states surrounding Nebraska already have adopted similar measures, many with even lower age requirements, without negative consequences.

“The bill is more conservative in nature so that we can make sure we are doing our due diligence to protect [riders] as best we can, but also give them the freedom and liberty to choose to wear a helmet or not,” Hansen said.

Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer spoke in favor of the amendment. Helmets save lives and riders should opt to wear them, she said, however individuals should be allowed to choose for themselves.

“The government should not be involved in these personal decisions,” DeBoer said.

North Platte Sen. Mike Jacobson also spoke in favor of the proposal. The state loses out when riders traveling to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota avoid Nebraska, he said, taking significant economic activity with them.

Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman spoke in opposition to the motion to return the bill to select file.

During committee hearings over the years, he said, there has been significant opposition from a variety of medical associations and health professionals from across the state. Data shows that the number of deaths and significant injuries have increased in states that removed helmet requirements, Bostelman said.

Columbus Sen. Mike Moser also spoke in opposition. The Legislature should encourage people to wear helmets for their own safety by maintaining the legal requirement to do so, he said.

“Government tells us to wear seatbelts. Government tells us to obey the speed limits. They tell us to obey stop lights,” Moser said. “Government tells us what to do all the time.”

After voting 30-5 to adopt the Hansen amendment, senators advanced LB138 to final reading by voice vote.

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