Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Latest attempt to repeal motorcycle helmet law advances in Missouri House

Under the bill given first-round approval, motorcyclists could ride without helmets, provided they are at least 21 years old and have $50,000 worth of health insurance coverage. House Bill 1464 is sponsored by Republican Eric Burlison, R-Springfield.

"Put this in perspective: people who are adults, taxpayers who are living on the road who just want to express their freedom, many of which are veterans who went and fought a war and now they're coming back and they just want a little bit of that freedom that they fought for," Burlison said. "I think that that's what we're doing at the end of the day – giving people a little bit of their freedom back."

Opponents from both parties argued that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is too dangerous, and that even with insurance medical expenses from head injuries can financially ruin families.

"The majority of head injuries caused by motorcycle accidents are in men ages 45 to 55," said Rep. Sue Meredith, D-St. Louis. "Now, I understand the freedom, but the wind in your hair, I don't get it."

That comments sparked scattered laughter throughout the House chamber.

On a more serious note, Meredith said, "This is at a time in your life when you have a family to support, you have college-age kids, (and) there are a lot of economic issues. It's not a personal choice; it's a family choice, (and) your family is going to have to take care of you if you have an accident, be it a skinned knee or a head injury."

Meredith sponsored an amendment that would have raised the minimum health insurance coverage to $500,000 from the proposed $50,000.

"Having had someone in trauma in the hospital, $50,000 doesn't go very far," she said. "It gets you in the door."

The amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

"We should not be punishing the people that are abiding by the law that have health insurance," said Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph. "We should be loosening the restrictions on the people that are abiding by the law, and we should not punish them."

While most Republican House members supported the bill's personal liberty philosophy, the most vocal opposition also came from a Republican. Keith Frederick of Rolla is both a state representative and an orthopedic surgeon.

"We have allocated money in our budget for traumatic brain injury, (and) we have a thousand people waiting for treatment. We have the opportunity to be involved in an initiative, in conjunction with our military and with multiple stakeholders that have expertise in our state, to address this problem of traumatic brain injury. It doesn't really seem to make sense to me that we are, on the one hand, going to allow more individuals to suffer these traumatic brain injuries, while on the other hand we're funding through the traumatic brain injury fund and through Medicaid, and we're trying to take a leadership role with our military, to prevent these injuries."
He finished by saying, "in terms of support for this bill, this wind-in-your-hair, freedom-loving, brain-splattering, taxpayer-punishing, helmet law, I'll be a 'no' (vote) again this year."

House bill 1464 was perfected on a voice vote. It needs another vote by the full House before moving to the Missouri Senate.

In 2009, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would have done away with the state's helmet law for a five-year period while not requiring insurance coverage.

No comments: