Jelinek voted to repeal hemlet law

Published 7:23 pm Monday, March 21, 2005

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - Cass County's state Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, voted with the majority Thursday to let motorcyclists ride without helmets if they are at least 21 years old.
After a couple of hours of intense debate March 17 weighing the merits of freedom versus safety, the Senate voted 21-13 to send legislation repealing parts of the 1967 mandatory helmet law to the House.
But "the feeling is that the governor (Democrat Jennifer Granholm) will probably veto," Jelinek's aide, Chris Siebenmark, apprised the Board of Commissioners Thursday afternoon.
The legislation would give riders 21 and older the option of not wearing a helmet if they have taken a safety course or have been licensed for motorcycle operation for at least two years.
Motorcyclists argue that states surrounding Michigan give riders the option not to wear helmets.
Repeal foes, however, including insurers, law enforcers and hospitals, want the public protected from financial risks borne by others when motorcycles crash and riders' helmetless heads are unprotected.
Commissioner David Taylor, D-Edwardsburg, commented on insurance as he is part owner of a company which operates two trucks from Battle Creek and from Illinois, "going back and forth with freight."
Insurance costs more than twice as much for the Michigan truck, Taylor said - $2,800 versus $5,700 - "and they're running the same routes."
Michigan has been experiencing 80 motorcycle fatalities a year - a number projected to increase by 40 each year.
Other Republicans, however, cast it as a freedom issue. "People have died so that we can be free," Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, was quoted, "to allow people to be free in a free land unencumbered by big government's intrusion."
Eleven Republicans and 10 Democrats joined to approve the bill. Nine Republicans and four Democrats voted against the bill in the Senate.