JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As part of an omnibus motor vehicle bill that included license fees and inspection dates, the Missouri legislature also approved partially repealing the state’s motorcycle helmet law.
A provision in SB 147, which was truly agreed and finally passed on Friday, allows individuals 18 years or older to operate a motorcycle without a helmet, provided he or she is covered by a special insurance plan.
“It is something I have been working on for longer than I can remember,” said Sen. Eric Burlison, who sponsored the Senate version of the standalone bill. “We hear about veterans — folks who have fought for their rights. Many of them enjoy riding motorcycles and this is an issue that we are able to give them a little bit of their freedom back.”
Supporters argued the provision allows citizens to make their own decisions on wearing a helmet.
The particular portion of the bill received pushback mostly from Democrats, who argued more Missourians will die or end up with brain injuries as a result of the law.
Rep. Gina Mitten pointed out that in some cities, under the bill, people could be ticketed for riding a bicycle without a helmet but not a motorcycle. She added motorcycle helmet laws save lives.
Republican Sen. Bill White voted against the bill because of “fiscal responsibility,” citing Medicaid recipients who might suffer a traumatic brain injury as a result of an accident sans a helmet and would rack up expensive healthcare costs.
“Where your freedom stops is when it comes to my pocketbook,” he previously said.
The bill also changes the trigger folks have to start getting their vehicle inspected.
Currently, any vehicle older than five years has to be inspected every two years. Under the bill, only vehicles older than 10 years or with more than 150,000 miles will need to be inspected each renewal period.
“That will essentially make it to where about a little less than half of the cars that are currently being inspected today now won’t be hassled to be inspected, but the oldest and most driven ones will still go through the inspection process,” said. Rep. J. Eggleston, who sponsored the provision as a standalone bill. “I am thrilled that is passed and I know there are countless Missourians who will be happy to know they don’t have to go through the government imposed hassle anymore.”
License and vehicle registration fees will also see a significant increase under the legislation.
A provision within the bill will increase annual licenses from $3.50 to $6.00; biennial licenses from $7 to $12; transfer of title from $2.50 to $6; instruction permits, nondriver, chauffeur’s, operator’s, and driver’s license from $2.50 to $6; and notice of lien processing from $2.50 to $6.
Rep. Jeff Knight, who sponsored one of the standalone bills, previously said the fees have not changed for more than 20 years, and the increasing amounts adjust for inflation.
“It is time to take a look at these fees,” Knight said in April.
The fee increase is aimed at addressing the revenue issue rural license offices are facing. Supporters have previously noted some offices are operating at a loss of more than $27,000 a year.
Some did raise the concern that for those on fixed incomes, roughly doubling the fees could be a hardship.
Additional provisions in SB 147 include allowing left turns onto one-way streets at red lights; removing the requirement an “autocycle” be controlled by a steering wheel and pedals; establishing the “Towing Task Force;” authorizing the implementation of a secure digital driver’s license program; and shifting recreational trailer registration from December to May.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.