LINCOLN — The latest effort to repeal Nebraska's motorcycle helmet law looks like it will take lawmakers on an eight-hour ride.
Supporters of the helmet law announced Thursday they would filibuster the repeal bill. After eight hours of debate, repeal supporters can call for a vote to cut off discussions.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins, sponsor of the repeal bill, said he probably has the 25 votes to pass the measure. He was unsure, however, if he has the 33 votes needed to end the filibuster.
Lawmakers spent about two hours debating Legislative Bill 393 before they adjourned for afternoon hearings. They will resume floor debate Friday morning and have to hit the eight-hour mark before Bloomfield can request the vote to cease debate.
Bloomfield said his bill is about giving Nebraska's 92,000 motorcyclists the freedom to choose whether they want to wear a helmet or not. All states surrounding Nebraska, with the exception of Missouri, do not compel riders to wear helmets.
“The Declaration of Independence says life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Not conformity, control and a safe cocoon.”
Opponents argued repealing the law will lead to more deaths, more serious brain trauma and more medical costs that taxpayers may have to bear through the state and federal government's Medicaid program.
“Maybe what we ought to do is rename this bill the head injury or the organ donor bill,” said Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln.
A 2013 survey cited by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety reported 81 percent of Nebraskans want to keep the helmet law, while 18 percent support its repeal.
Repeal proposals have come before the full Legislature four times since the helmet requirement was adopted in 1989. None has succeeded.