It appears state lawmakers are on the verge of repealing the state motorcycle helmet law.
Sen. John Lowe of Kearney fell one vote short of overcoming a filibuster last year, but has a second chance after Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha prioritized his bill this year.
“I urge you to allow a vote on LB 368 and I urge you to vote yes on returning freedoms to your fellow citizens,” Lowe told colleagues as he opened debate on the bill.
Legislative Bill 368 would repeal the requirement that adult motorcycle riders must wear a helmet in Nebraska. Motorcyclists 20-years-old and younger would still be required to wear helmets. Children under six would not be allowed to ride on a motorcycle.
Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha leads the filibuster against the bill. He told senators during floor debate Monday that helmet use fell 50% in states which repealed the law.
“And in every state that has repealed their helmet law, they have an increase in the number of head injuries or deaths,” Hilkemann stated.
Supporters of LB 368 cast their support in terms of personal freedom. Some even state it is a matter of civil liberties. Opponents emphasize safety and the heavy cost of treating traumatic brain injuries which are often borne by taxpayers.
Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard said the state has no right to force motorcyclists to wear helmets.
“This is an infringement on the motorcycle rider’s rights and I believe, once and for all, we need to settle this and repeal the helmet law,” Erdman said during legislative debate.
But, Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha related stories about motorcyclists who lost their lives, because they failed to wear helmets.
“And so, when we think about what it means to be safe on the road, when we think about what these helmets mean, these helmets can often mean somebody coming home,” Howard said.
A motorcycle helmet repeal bill has become an annual event at the state Capitol as had a filibuster to block a vote. This year could be different.
State lawmakers debated the issue for three hours Monday afternoon. Lowe convinced Speaker Jim Scheer he has the 33 votes needed to overcome the filibuster and go to a vote on the bill. Scheer has scheduled additional debate for Wednesday afternoon when, after an additional three hours, presumably a vote will be taken to end the filibuster and go to a vote on the bill.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]