Jefferson City, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan (D) vetoed SB 294, the modification of Missouri's mandatory helmet law Tuesday (July 13). The reason for the veto was cited as avoiding an increase in cost to the citizens of Missouri and an increase in the number of head injuries. Until now, the motorcyclists of Missouri had been told by the Governor's office that he considered this a non-controversial bill. Apparently the governor has determined to make it controversial. Freedom of Road Riders (FORR) has worked tirelessly to get this legislation passed only to have the governor steal freedom of choice out from under them within 48 hours of his deadline for action. According to the Missouri Constitution, the governor has forty-five days from the end of session to sign or veto the bill or allow it to become law by taking no action. By statute, the Missouri General Assembly reconvenes in September for ten days to consider overriding vetoes. A veto override requires a two-thirds majority vote of the elected members in each chamber of the General Assembly.
Based on his objections to SB 294, Governor Carnahan seems to have bought into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's claim that motorcyclists are social burdens. A disturbing pattern seems to be developing around the country where the social burden advocates are convincing governors to override the will of the people and the decisions of the legislatures by vetoing helmet law modification bills. Governor Carnahan is the third governor in the last two years to veto this type of legislation. The governor did not contact FORR to discuss his objections about the bill prior to the veto. The only contact FORR received from the governor's staff was a phone message after the fact.
Tom Pauley, Government Relations Director for FORR, said, "We are terribly disappointed. All indications were the Governor was just going to let this bill become law. The members of FORR have put in a tremendous effort and should not view this as a failure." Pauley went on to encourage Missouri's motorcyclists, "We will continue to do what we do best, grassroots activity in the legislative process. Now we need to focus on the next step, the September veto session. Then we will move on to the next legislative session and the 2000 elections. We are not going away!"
Steve Zimmer, Vice President of Government Relations for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, said, "I'm surprised by the governor's veto. The past leadership of FORR was lead to believe the governor supported this issue. >From a federal standpoint, this action raises some concerns about the Missouri Senate race in 2000. Governor Carnahan has expressed his intention to challenge U.S. Senator John Ashcroft (R)." In 1995, Senator Ashcroft supported motorcyclists when he voted to repeal the federal penalties on states without helmet laws and rejected the social burden argument when he voted against denying federal benefits to motorcyclists riding without a helmet.
Zimmer continued, "Motorcyclist are shocked by the governor's
sneak attack. Governor Carnahan should remember the words of Admiral
Yamamoto minutes after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 'I fear we
have only awakened a sleeping giant, and his reaction will be
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