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Twenty-fifth day is completed

Thursday, February 11, 2010

By Thursday of this week, we will have finished the 25th Legislative Day of a 60-day session. The Legislature will have a recess day this Friday, allowing senators four days back home in their Districts, including Presidents Day on Monday the 15th.

Last week, the floor debate was dominated by LB 200, which would change motorcycle helmet requirements by allowing the freedom for operators 21 and older to choose to ride with or without a helmet. In addition, any operator or rider ages 15 to 20 years old who successfully completes a motorcycle safety course and carries proof of completion may also choose to ride with or without a helmet. The bill makes enforcement of this section a secondary action, similar to our seatbelt law.

Moreover, the bill requires eye protection for a motorcycle rider, which shall be glasses, a protective face shield, goggles, or a windshield on the motorcycle. Lack of eye protection would be a primary action for law enforcement.

This is the second time since I have been down here that a bill to allow motorcycle operators the choice to wear a helmet has been debated on the floor of the Unicameral. It is always a lively debate.

Last week, amendment AM1720 to LB 200, brought by the introducer, was adopted. It required additional medical reimbursement insurance of at least $1 million upon the registration of the motorcycle. In addition, the amendment put in place a five-year sunset on the helmet sections of the bill, so that an evaluation of the effects of allowing certain motorcycle operators the choice to wear a helmet or not could be studied.

A floor amendment to add a requirement for long-term care insurance for all operators was adopted then reconsidered after the body was further informed that such insurance would be too costly of a requirement for a large portion of operators. A motion to bracket the bill (postpone debate) to Feb 9, prevailed, to work out concerns from interested parties.

While I understand and respect the views on both sides of the debate, I have come down on the side of freedom to choose the risks we take; we do this in so many other areas of life. The costs of motorcycle accidents are still dwarfed by all other motor vehicle accidents.

Government's primary job is to provide order and structure within society, to restrain evil, and protect people from harming others. Helmets do not prevent accidents; they are the protection of last resort for an inherently dangerous activity.

Thirty states provide some form of helmet choice for adult or trained riders. We are an island among our neighboring states, only Missouri has a mandatory helmet law similar to ours.

I believe it is reasonable to adopt some form of helmet choice and review it after five years.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding bills or any other issue, please call my office at (402) 471-2805 or for more information. You can view my legislative Web site at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/.

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As well as the insurance requirement, motorcycle riders should be required to sign an organ donor card.

-- Posted by J. E. Thomas on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 3:22 PM

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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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