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Motorcyclists converge on capitol to support bill

April 26, 2000
By: Dan Shaw
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 610

JEFFERSON CITY - The House Transportation Committee voted 16-5 Wednesday to eliminate the law mandating adult motorcyclists have to wear helmets while riding.

The vote came on the same day as Freedom of Road Riders, a group that lobbies for biker endorsed legislation, held a rally outside the capitol to celebrate the bill's passage.

Tom Pauley, the head lobbyist for the group, said wearing a helmet should be up to the individual's discretion and not mandated by government.

"The knowledge you have inside your head is better than anything you put on your head," said Pauley.

Originally sponsored by Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence, the measure passed the Senate early last month in a 21-11 vote.

It was then taken up by the House Transportation Committee headed by Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville. Koller said they had to drop amendments tacked on by opponents in the Senate -- mandating buckling seat belts and submitting to a breath test before riding a motorcycle.

With that obstacle bypassed, Koller says the bill has good chances of becoming law this year.

"I think we've got a great bill," said Koller.

However, last year, the governor vetoed a similar bill.

"Failure to use motorcycle helmets places a large financial burden on society and individual states," Gov. Mel Carnahan wrote in his veto message last year. "Unhelmeted riders cost more to treat at the hospital, spend a longer time in rehabilitation, and are more likely to require some form of public assistance to pay medical bills and rehabilitation."

Ironically, during the rally outside the Capitol a proclamation signed by the governor naming May to be "Motorcycle Awareness and You Month" was announced.

His declaration called for both cyclists as well as drivers of automobiles to pay closer attention to motor cycle safety.

A portion of the proclamation was read by Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson, who voiced support for repealing the helmet law. The governor was not present.

Several representatives road their bikes with members of Freedom of Road Riders to show support for the helmet legislation and safety month.

Two awards were also handed out to legislators particularly helpful in forwarding the group's agenda.

One of last year's award recipients, Rep. Gracia Backer, D-New Bloomfield, spoke from the podium bedecked in leather.

"Thank you for bringing credibility this great sport of motorcycle riding," she said. "We are no longer the stereotypical Hell's Angels, especially when it comes to the issue of motorcycle safety."