The state House has proposed allowing motorcyclists in Missouri to ride without helmets if they are older than 21 and carry at least $50,000 of health insurance coverage.

Representative Eric Burlison (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Eric Burlison sponsored the helmet law legislation.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Legislation to lift or change Missouri’s law requiring motorcyclists wear a helmet has been offered for several years, and in 2009 a bill proposing a repeal of that law reached Governor Jay Nixon but was vetoed. The insurance and age requirements are meant to bridge the gap between proponents and opponents of changing the law.

Not everyone is sold on the proposal. Representative Sue Meredith (D-St. Louis) proposed a higher insurance coverage requirement, saying serious head injuries can cost far more in care.

“$50,000 doesn’t go very far. It gets you in the door,” said Meredith. “About two-and-a-half weeks in, if you’re in the trauma unit in the hospital, you’ve already hit $500,000.”

Meredith said a higher insurance requirement would protect not only the injured person and his or her family, but the state.

“If their family doesn’t have the money, they don’t have the insurance, we’re going to be supporting not only that person’s care but that family,” said Meredith.

Her amendment was voted down.

Most Republicans, including Representative Delus Johnson (R-St. Joseph), said the bill was about freedom.

“The riders I know are financially responsible, they have motorcycle insurance, they have motorcycle licenses. Let’s give them the freedom to choose whether or not they want to wear their helmet,” said Johnson.

Johnson and other backers said the bill would lead to more state revenue through increased tourism, motorcycle sales, and other motorcycle-related business.

“We’re going to see millions of dollars that are generated and then go straight into Missouri’s highway fund,” said Johnson.

The proposal, HB 1464,  has been sent to the Senate.  The measure received too few votes in the House to overturn a veto, but House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) said if it comes to that, there will be an effort to come up with the votes necessary for an override.  He noted some representatives were absent during Thursday’s vote.