LINCOLN — Motorcyclists in Nebraska will have to keep their chin straps tight after the latest legislative effort to repeal the helmet law failed.
The vote to end a filibuster of the repeal bill came up eight votes short of the 33 votes needed Tuesday. Under the rules, Legislative Bill 393 is removed from the agenda and now has almost no chance of coming up for consideration again this session.
In the end, the latest repeal bill hit the same dead end of four previous similar measures that made it to the Legislature for full debate.
Opponents of repeal said lifting the helmet requirement would lead to more deaths and more traumatic brain injuries. Survivors of motorcycle crashes frequently turn to state and federal programs to pay for costly long-term care, so the helmet law also saves tax dollars, they argued.
Repeal backers tried to frame the issue as one of personal freedom. They also said the helmet law costs Nebraska economically because riders avoid the state and many of Nebraska's 92,000 licensed motorcyclists head for surrounding states on weekends.
“Is the sake of liberty worth the trade-off of lives?” asked Sen. Sue Crawford of Omaha, who said she supports the helmet law.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins made repealing the helmet law his legislative priority. He had hoped that requiring helmets for riders under 21 and making all motorcyclists wear eye protection would have been enough to win more support.
He said Tuesday's vote showed the repeal may have had the 25 votes necessary to pass if he could have mustered the 33 votes to cut off debate.
He said the time spent debating the measure — nearly eight hours — was still worthwhile because a helmet repeal measure had not been discussed since 2010. That year, 27 senators voted to cut off debate.
Nebraska has had a helmet law in place since 1989. Missouri is the only surrounding state with a mandatory helmet rule. A total of 19 states require helmet use.
How state senators voted on a motion to cease debate on a bill to repeal the helmet law. A vote in favor would have ended the filibuster and allowed a vote on the underlying bill while a vote against would have tabled the bill for the year. Thirty-three of 49 senators must vote to cease debate.
Yes (25): Adams, Bloomfield, Brasch, Carlson, Christensen, Coash, Conrad, Davis, Garrett, Hansen, Janssen, Karpisek, Kintner, Krist, Larson, Lautenbaugh, McCoy, Mello, Murante, Nelson, Pirsch, Scheer, Schilz, Schumacher, Smith
No (22): Ashford, Avery, Bolz, Campbell, Chambers, Cook, Crawford, Dubas, Gloor, Haar, Hadley, Harms, Harr, Howard, Johnson, Kolowski, Lathrop, McGill, Nordquist, Seiler, Watermeier, Wightman
Present not voting (2): Sullivan, Wallman
Neb astronaut Clayton Anderson supports helmet law. Says he wore one in space shuttle, at least part of time. @OWHnews— Joe Duggan (@JoeDugganOWH) February 11, 2014