News Item: Lawmakers to bikers: You decide on helmets
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by MJF
Thursday 08 June 2006 - 11:05:40

The Detroit News

The Michigan House Wednesday approved a bill to allow motorcyclists at least 21 years of age with two years driving experience or a completed motorcycle safety class the option of not wearing a helmet. Here's what happens next:

The bill goes to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has indicated she will veto it.

If she does, it's unlikely lawmakers could muster enough votes to override that veto.

The bill could be reintroduced next year with supporters hoping Granholm would have a change of heart or that Michigan would have a new governor.

A bill to repeal Michigan's 37-year-old mandate that bikers wear protective helmets has been approved by the legislature and is on its way to the governor.

LANSING -- After an estimated 800 motorcyclists rallied in front of the Capitol on Wednesday, the Michigan House rewarded their efforts by passing historic legislation to end the state's 37-year-old mandate that bikers wear protective helmets.

The 66-37 vote, following last year's Senate approval, marks the first time both chambers have agreed during the same legislative session that Michigan should join 30 other states -- including all those in the Midwest -- to let riders decide whether to don helmets.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has said she will veto it.

The bill could set up a campaign issue in this year's gubernatorial race since Republican Dick DeVos supports the repeal.

House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis climbed aboard Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Fowlerville to lead a 30-mile procession of several hundred bikers to the Lansing rally.

"This has always been about freedom, about your choice," DeRoche told the crowd.

"We need to send a message to the governor that she needs to sign this bill."

Anuzis told the gathered bikers, many sporting tattoos, black leather and graying beards: "If this governor doesn't sign it, I guarantee you the next governor will."

Michigan has nearly a half-million licensed motorcycle riders.

The helmet repeal is strongly opposed by law enforcement and the insurance and medical communities, on grounds that it would lead to a hefty increase in motorcycle injuries and fatalities.

They also say the expected increase in health care costs that would accompany a helmet law repeal would be borne by all Michigan residents.

"The governor supports the current law, and no one has made a convincing argument that she should feel differently," said Liz Boyd, the governor's press secretary.

The legislation would allow motorcyclists at least 21 years of age with two years driving experience or a completed motorcycle safety class the option of not wearing a helmet.

If Granholm vetoes the bill, an override is unlikely.

John Melech, a 54-year Dearborn motorcyclist who attended the rally, said he would likely vote for DeVos based on the helmet issue, despite leaning toward Democratic candidates for 20 years.

"It's about who will represent me and my interests," said the Ford Motor Co. skilled tradesman.

You can reach Charlie Cain at (517) 371-3660 or ccain©

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