LINCOLN — A proposal to repeal Nebraska's helmet law has taken a back road to avoid a legislative traffic jam.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins asked that Legislative Bill 393 not be scheduled for debate over concerns there won't be enough time this session. The current 90-day session of the Legislature ends June 5, but lawmakers are down to 12 working days.
“I think we have enough to keep us busy,” Bloomfield said Wednesday.
Bloomfield designated the bill his priority, but it has not yet had first-round debate. He said he anticipates the discussion will take eight hours because the repeal measure likely will face a filibuster.
Now it will be carried over to 2014, meaning it could be debated early in the next session, Bloomfield said. He said he will make it his priority again if necessary.
Helmet law repeal may stand a better chance of passage next year, said Scott Lucey of Omaha, legislative officer for the motorcycle advocacy group ABATE Nebraska. He pointed out that recent long debates over the death penalty and expansion of Medicaid benefits for low-income adults didn't end in compromise.
“I'm not of the mind-set that the Unicameral is very harmonious right now,” he said.
The news was welcomed by Dr. Jason Kruger, a Lincoln emergency room doctor who testified against the bill earlier this year on behalf of the Nebraska Medical Association.
“We're strongly in support of motorcycle helmet laws,” he said. “They save lives and reduce permanent, disabling injuries.”
Nebraska is one of 18 states that requires the use of helmets for all motorcyclists. Missouri is the only surrounding state that also has a helmet law.
Bloomfield's bill would allow riders 21 and older to operate a motorcycle without a helmet. Younger riders would still be required to wear one, and all motorcycle operators would be required to wear eye protection.
Repeal measures have reached the full Legislature four times since the helmet requirement was reinstated in 1989. None have succeeded.
The last time a helmet repeal bill made it to the floor in 2010, it was killed when only 27 of the needed 33 senators voted to cut off a filibuster. That measure was sponsored by Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont.
During a public hearing on the bill this year, 11 people testified in support of repeal while 12 spoke against. Medical groups and traffic safety organizations said in addition to saving lives, helmet laws also reduce insurance premiums and costs to taxpayer-funded health care programs.
Those who want to do away with the law said Nebraska loses out on tourism dollars because many motorcyclists avoid riding in the state if they can. They also argued that wearing a helmet should be a matter of personal choice.
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee advanced the bill on a 5-3 vote.
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