- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Motorcyclists will go at least another year without the Nebraska wind in their hair as state senators backed the state’s mandatory helmet law.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins failed in his third attempt to repeal the helmet law Thursday when an exemption for riders 21 and older fell three votes short of the 33 required to force a vote.

Nebraska senators have unsuccessfully tried to repeal the helmet law nearly every year since it was passed in 1989, but Bloomfield said he had high hopes for this year’s compromise that would have created a Brain Injury Trust Fund to appeal to opponents’ arguments about the expense of such injuries.

The fund would take in an estimated $1 million a year by raising the motorcycle registration fee from $6 to $25. Bloomfield said motorcycling groups agreed to the $19 increase, but the compromise did not play out as he hoped.

“This body continues to surprise me when people say one thing and do something else,” Bloomfield said.

Senators representing healthcare sectors said the current law saves lives and the fund would not offset Medicaid costs to the state that would rise if the law is repealed.

“The million dollars a year would be wiped out with one brain injury,” said Sen. Bob Hilkeman, a podiatrist from Omaha who led a filibuster against the bill.

Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, who represents the district housing Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, called the bill fiscally irresponsible.

Each fatality costs approximately $1.5 million in medical costs, lost wages, property damage and other expenses, according to National Safety Council data, and older studies have shown nearly half of helmetless riders do not have private insurance.

Supporters said motorcyclists’ safety choices do not affect others and the state does not outlaw other risky behavior like smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.

“I believe in personal liberty; I believe people have the right to be stupid,” said Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete.

Bloomfield said the state is losing tourism and tax revenue because motorcyclists avoid the state en route to the world’s largest motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Nineteen states require helmets for all riders, but of Nebraska’s surrounding states, only Missouri has a universal helmet law.

The bill is LB900.

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