[UPDATE, February 4, 2023: On Thursday, February 3, 2023, Connecticut state senator Martin Looney stated that the proposed bill he introduced into the state house in January was meant to make a statement, and not intended to change or become a law.
Looney is, himself, the recipient of a much-needed kidney donation in 2016, which he credits with changing his life. He said of the proposed bill that, “It’s a statement to highlight both the need for motorcycle safety and the need for more people to choose the option to have their organs available to transplant at the time of their death. There are so many healthy organs that are buried with people that could otherwise have transformed other lives.”
As Looney clarified his intentions surrounding this bill, he also mentioned that there is planned legislation in the works to restore Connecticut’s law requiring all riders to wear motorcycle helmets. Previously, Connecticut required riders to wear helmets until the law was repealed in 1976. In 1989, it adopted a partial helmet law, which required riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets, as well as riders who have a learner’s permit. That is the current state law that is in effect as of February, 2023.]
Original piece follows.
While it may seem cliché, the observation that “all politics is local” is a true one. That’s why, although we’re certainly not StateHouseApart, we like to draw your attention to bills that could affect riders as they come up in different state houses across the nation. Today, we have one that appears to have been crafted by a troll (can state senators be trolls?), based purely on its language, and it comes from the great state of Connecticut.
During Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) Session Year 2023, state Senator Martin M. Looney, of the 11th District, introduced Proposed Senate Bill No. 96. Its title tells you everything you need to know about it, and it reads, An Act Establishing a Rebuttable Presumption That Persons Killed in a Motorcycle Accident While Riding Without a Helmet Wish to Donate Their Organs.
At the time of writing on February 1, 2023, the only action taken in the CGA was to refer it to the Joint Committee on Public Health on January 12, 2023. The text of the proposed bill itself is extremely short, and simply states, “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened: That the general statutes be amended to establish a rebuttable presumption that a person who is killed in a motorcycle accident while riding the motorcycle without a helmet wishes to donate their organs.”
It then goes on to list its Statement of Purpose as, “To improve public health.” Excuse me, senator, but to whose public health do you refer? We’re big fans of helmets (and wearing helmets) at RideApart, but dehumanizing riders who don’t wear them is not a good look. You probably have at least some riders among your constituents, I’m willing to bet, because we are everywhere and in every profession.
While I wish more people would wear helmets, too, legislation that violates an entire group’s bodily autonomy is always the wrong move. As it is currently written, Connecticut state law only requires that motorcyclists wear helmets if they are under 18 years of age, or else operating a motorcycle with a learner’s permit. Adult riders who are fully licensed may choose not to wear a helmet under state law. If the Senator and his constituents don’t like it, then it’s literally his job to propose a bill that would change that law.
On January 31, 2023, the American Motorcyclist Association issued a press release announcing that it is fighting this proposed bill in Connecticut. “The bill shows callous disregard for the motorcycling public. Organ donation is a noble cause that regularly saves lives around the country, but the decision to become a donor is a deeply personal one—one that this legislation would take away from motorcyclists,” wrote AMA Government Relations Director Mike Sayre.
“Not only is this bill insulting to motorcyclists, but it also violates the religious liberty of those whose faith prohibits posthumous organ donation, and is clearly an unconstitutional violation of bodily autonomy for any American,” he added.
If you’re interested in reading the bill for yourself, we’ll include a link in our Sources. If you’re a rider in Connecticut, you may want to reach out to the Senator and let him know how you feel. A quick glance at other bills he’s introduced in this session reveals a slate of what seems to be pretty normal concerns, regarding things like road traffic, education, consumer protections, support services for vulnerable populations, and so on. That makes both the title and the substance of this bill stand out even more.
Sources: Connecticut General Assembly, Cycle News, CT News Junkie, Connecticut General Assembly Research Report on Motorcycle Helmet Laws