SENATE PASSES HELMET LAW Measure, projected to save $1.3 million a year, goes to governor.


ANNAPOLIS -- The General Assembly today enacted a law that will require all motorcyclists to wear helmets, making Maryland the 25th state to adopt such legislation.

The Senate approved a House Bill on the measure 31-15. It now goes to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who had pushed the bill this year, for his signature.

Maryland lawmakers repealed the helmet law in 1979, and had steadfastly resisted attempts to reinstate it over the past 12 years.

But the climate in Annapolis changed abruptly this year, as the state's fiscal woes gave new import to the savings the bill promised -- about $1.3 million the state spends on accident victims who are on Medicaid or have no health insurance.

That argument last week led Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel, to change his vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings ++ Committee, giving the measure a 6-5 victory and moving it to the Senate floor for the first time. The House of Delegates had approved it 103-29.

Mr. Jimeno and other legislators were less impressed by arguments that the bill would bring the state millions in federal safety funds.

Earlier this week, Sen. Patricia R. Sher, D-Montgomery, attempted to weaken the bill by amending the law to make it a secondary offense like the seat belt law. The change would have meant cyclists could be ticketed for not wearing helmets only if they had been stopped for other traffic violations.

Ms. Sher continued to fight the bill today. "This will not bring back one life and, I believe, it will not save one life," she said.

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