Opponents of the bill successfully upheld a filibuster against it.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha told colleagues during floor debate he understands the argument of supporters that motorcycle riders should have the freedom of choosing to wear a helmet or not.
“For the individual it is very, very important,” Lathrop stated. “As policy makers, I don’t think that’s the end of the inquiry. In order to make good policy, we have to look beyond the simple principle of freedom of choice and ask, ‘Does it make sense for the state as a policy?’”
Lathrop and other opponents successfully mounted a filibuster against LB 393, sponsored by Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins. The bill would have repealed the state mandate that motorcyclists wear helmets while riding.
The debate split into familiar camps: public safety vs. personal freedom.
Opponents of the bill argued that repeal would automatically translate into deaths on Nebraska roadways. They further argued that even if someone involved in a motorcycle accident without a helmet survived, they would most likely suffer brain damage and Nebraska taxpayers would have to pay for their medical care through the state Medicaid program.
Sen. John Murante of Gretna dismissed such arguments.
“If the line of reasoning that we are using is that any human activity that might result in a person eventually someday being put on Medicaid or they might get some sort of government benefit if they partake in some human activity, there is no limit to this government scope,” Murante stated during floor debate.
The argument against the regulation mandating motorcycle riders wear helmets didn’t make sense to Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island who stated the legislature approves regulations to protect the people of Nebraska.
“Now, we’re talking about this one small bit of regulation that we don’t like when we’re surrounded by laws that we’ve put in place to protect ourselves and that people were supportive of, people being voters, were supportive of,” according to Gloor. “Don’t be distracted by a small set of Nebraskans who would like the helmet law to go away.”
Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion told colleagues supporters aren’t saying that motorcycles aren’t dangerous.
“I mean, no one’s arguing that that is not true,” Kintner said. “What we are arguing is you ought to be responsible for your own actions. Everyone knows it’s dangerous. Everyone knows you take your life in your own hands when you ride a motorcycle. We don’t need the government to mandate that you wear a helmet.”
Supporters could not sway enough votes though. They needed 33 votes to end the filibuster. The vote to stop debate and force a vote on the bill was 25-22 with two senators not voting.
The filibuster held. The legislature has moved on to other business.