JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The issue of motorcycle helmets has been a decades-long debate in the Missouri legislature.
Bikers wanting the freedom to ride legally without a helmet won a victory in this legislative session. A new law will take effect Friday allowing fully licensed motorcyclists over the age of 25 with proof of health insurance to travel without wearing a helmet.
Supporters and opponents of the bill testified in March before a House committee at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City.
Opponents argued lifting the helmet requirement would result in more lives lost and serious injuries. Supporters said many motorcyclists are military veterans who fought for freedoms and should be allowed to legally travel without a helmet. They also testified the state was losing out on money because of the helmet requirement.
“Friends all over the nation will bypass Missouri to go to Sturgis or any of the other big rallies that are going on across the country,” said Deanna Rhodes, a representative with the Freedom of Road Riders. “We are losing dollars left and right because they do not want to come into our state.”
Some Missourians feel the change is a mistake. Todd Dean is bicyclist who was wearing a helmet when he survived a crash.
“That was just a bicycle; I couldn’t imagine a motorcycle,” he said.
Christy Wilkison can do more than imagine. She said her husband died after suffering a serious brain injury.
“I had to watch him live through 11 years in a permanent vegetative state and it’s nothing anyone wants a loved one to do, so I think we need to be safe and keep our helmets on,” she said.
Other new laws include a so-called “granny-cam” law. The change allows families to have a security camera in their loved one’s room at a nursing home to monitor the level of care they receive.
Missouri resident Quiana Simmons applauds the law and wishes it would have passed sooner. She believes her grandfather’s nursing home failed to feed him on occasions.
“We wanted to know what was going on in there but there were no cameras,” she said.
Another new law will ban vaping in public schools and on school buses. High school students testified before a house committee in February about how prevalent vaping was in their schools.
“In the past week alone, I have seen five kids vaping in class; that’s in class,” Nevada High School student Lucas Corbin told lawmakers.
The classification of service animals will receive a narrower definition through a new law taking effect Friday. Mental health will also be a valid reason for using one. The new law also creates a misdemeanor for anyone misrepresenting a service animal in order to gain benefits. Supporters believe the law will help prevent fraudsters from misusing service animals which they say results in less sympathy for those who rely on them for physical or mental help.