Motorcycle helmet repeal falls short; confidential NU searches advance

Sen. Dave Bloomfield argues for repealing motorcycle helmet law (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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March 17, 2016 - 5:15pm


The latest attempt to repeal Nebraska’s motorcycle helmet law fell short, while lawmakers advanced a bill to keep University of Nebraska leadership searches private longer, in the Nebraska Legislature Thursday.

It was Sen. Dave Bloomfield’s last shot at repealing the state’s law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. Bloomfield will leave office because of term limits after this year. He had the support of senators including Dan Hughes of Venango, who told what happened to two friends. "One of them slipped in the bathroom, hit his head, he’s now a quadriplegic. Another friend of mine slipped in the bathroom, hit his head, he’s now dead. Should we require helmets in our bathrooms? Helmets do save lives, there’s no question about it. But how far are we willing to go?" he asked.

Lining up against repeal were senators including Joni Craighead. One thing that’s never left me is when I was in college I was driving home from Lincoln to Nebraska City and I came upon a state trooper and I saw this gentleman scoop up a crushed skull, scrambled brains and a broken body of a young woman from a no-helmet motorcycle crash. I still to this day cannot get that vision out of my head," Craighead said.

Sen. Robert Hilkemann, leading a filibuster against the bill, discussed what happened when another state repealed a similar law. "In the three years after Michigan repealed a mandatory motorcycle helmet law, deaths and head injuries among bikers rose sharply according to a recent study. Deaths at the scene of the crash more than quadrupled, while deaths in the hospital tripled for motorcyclists. Head injuries have increased overall and more of them are severe, researchers reported in an American Journal of Surgery magazine," Hilkemann said.

In his closing argument, Bloomfield referred to the fact that the bill proposed raising motorcycle registration fees from $6 to $25, to raise about $1 million dollars a year for a trust fund to help people with brain injuries. "We’re looking at gift of a million dollars from the bike riders of Nebraska to the state of Nebraska to create a brain injury trust fund that we have been told we need so badly. The bikers have stepped up. It’s time now for the Legislature to step up," Bloomfield said.

It would have taken a 2/3 majority vote – 33 senators – to break the filibuster and vote on advancing the bill. Bloomfield got only thirty votes, dooming the proposal for this year.

Also Thursday, senators advanced a bill that would reduce the number of candidates the University of Nebraska would have to disclose in searches for president or campus chancellors.

Currently, the names of candidates become public after the field is narrowed to four finalists. Under the proposal by Sen. John Murante, only the name of one so-called "priority" candidate would be made public.

Murante said the change would prevent Nebraska from missing out on candidates who might be dissuaded by the prospect of their names becoming public even if they were not selected. "What we are doing is creating an enhanced public scrutiny hiring process whereby the priority candidate selected by the Board of Regents will have a month long vetting period; there will be public hearings conducted on each of the university campuses," Murante said. "The priority candidate will make themselves available to the media, the faculty, the students, the staff of the university, and of course the taxpayers of this state. And at the end of that vetting period a vote will be taken on whether or not to confirm that priority candidate."

Sen. Ernie Chambers said the move was a step in the wrong direction. "We all know that if a person is selected by those regents as – and I’m calling it their paramount, not priority or any other word – their paramount individual, that is a guarantee of being hired. And anybody who thinks that is not so is very, very naïve," Chambers declared.

Senators voted to break Chambers’ filibuster and then gave the bill the second of three approvals it would require, on a vote of 36-8.



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