LANSING — The latest attempt by Michigan lawmakers to repeal a state law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets passed the state House and cleared a key hurdle Wednesday.
The measure approved by a 69-39 vote would allow riders 21 or older to go without helmets if they meet certain insurance and experience conditions.
Riders must have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years or have passed a safety course to go without helmets. The House bill calls for motorcyclists to have at least $20,000 of first party medical benefits coverage in the event they are involved in an accident.
The bill returns to the Senate, which already has passed the bill in a similar form. If the Senate agrees with the House-backed changes, the legislation would be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.
If supporters of the helmet repeal want the measure to become law, they may have to pass other proposals pending in the Legislature that would change elements of Michigan's auto insurance laws.
“The governor has been clear and consistent that for him to look at any helmet law repeal it has to take place in context of broader auto insurance reform,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said in an email.
The Senate version calls for motorcyclists wishing to ride without helmets to have at least $100,000 of insurance coverage for first-party medical benefits.
Motorcycle riders have wanted a repeal of Michigan's mandatory helmet law for years. Critics of the requirement say it stops some out-of-state riders from visiting Michigan. Others say wearing a helmet should be a matter of personal choice, not a mandate.
Supporters of the legislation stress that wearing a helmet would be optional if the legislation becomes law.
“It's there to wear if that's your choice,” said Rep. Peter Pettalia, a Republican from Presque Isle who voted in favor of the bill.
The Legislature has passed bills to repeal the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law previously, but the bills were vetoed twice by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Opponents of allowing motorcyclists to go helmetless say it would increase deaths and injuries and add to insurance costs.