- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A bid to repeal Louisiana’s motorcycle helmet requirement narrowly failed in the state House.

The measure fell shy Wednesday of the 53 votes needed to advance to the Senate for consideration. Lawmakers voted 49-46 in support of the measure.

Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, called his proposal a “personal choice bill.” He said it promoted safety by still requiring people under 21 years old to wear a helmet and undergo a training course.

Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, said he did not care whether riders made the personal choice to wear a helmet, but he was concerned the measure did not make mention of insurance policies. Repealing the mandatory motorcycle helmet law would “cost the state dearly,” Talbot said.

Opposing lawmakers joined Talbot in suggesting the measure could raise Louisiana’s already high insurance rates and cost the state more money if uninsured riders became injured in crashes. Schexnayder defended his bill against the criticism, saying the state does not currently have anyone on public care as a result of a motorcycle accident, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

The bill could also lead to more motorcycle crash deaths, its opponents said. They compared wearing helmets while riding a motorcycle to other legally mandated safety precautions, like motor vehicle seat belts and airbags.

Supporters of the law repeal presented their own comparisons, arguing that bull riders are not required to wear helmets. The state, they said, also does not mandate helmets for people who ride horses.

Comparing motorcycles to horses seemed flawed for Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia. He asked the chamber to “exercise good judgment,” consider high-speed, ninja-style motorcycles on state highways and reject the measure.

“Sometimes we have to do things to protect people from themselves,” Landry said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday he opposes repeal of the motorcycle helmet requirement. Asked if he would veto the bill if it won final passage, the Democratic governor replied: “There’s no other way at that point to express my lack of support.”

“I know that that will cause a lot more folks who are involved in accidents while riding a motorcycle to be more seriously injured or killed, so I don’t support that,” he said.

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House Bill 337: www.legis.la.gov

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