A bill to require skiers and snowboarders under 18 to wear helmets at California resorts, passed by the state's Assembly and Senate, has died because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not sign a piece of companion legislation requiring resorts to prepare annual safety plans.
Schwarzenegger signed the helmet bill on Friday, Sept. 24, but not Assembly Bill 1652, which would have required ski resorts to prepare safety plans each year, compile data on fatal accidents, and devise signage plans.
"This bill may place an unnecessary burden on resorts, without assurance of a significant reduction in ski and snowboard-related injuries and fatalities," Schwarzenegger said in a message accompanying his veto of the bill.
The governor signed Senate Bill 880, requiring helmets for skiers and snowboarders younger than 18.
"This measure will help prevent avoidable injuries to children while engaging in dangerous activities," Schwarzenegger wrote.
"Unfortunately, the Legislature made the enactment of this legislation contingent upon the enactment of Assembly Bill 1652, which I am returning without my signature. Consequently, while I am signing this bill to demonstrate my support for this measure, I recognize that it will not take effect."
Opinion was split over the proposed helmet law, in California and across the nation.
An editorial in the Manchester Union Leader Aug. 30 stated, "Do we really want to replicate a California-style nanny state here in New Hampshire? We are heading in that direction, and to see where we might end up, all we have to do is periodically check the news from the Golden State ...
"Passage of the bill followed, naturally, California's bicycle helmet law. New Hampshire passed its child bicycle helmet law in 2005. Last year, Democratic legislators tried to mandate that kids also wear helmets while skateboarding. It won't be long before they follow California's lead and try to mandate that kids wear helmets while skiing. And once the kids have to wear helmets while skiing, they'll try to make all of us strap them on.
"Don't get us wrong. As we have written repeatedly regarding the bicycle and skateboarding helmet laws, kids should wear helmets while participating in those activities. Some kids should wear helmets while skiing, depending on the kid, the property owners and the conditions.
"But whether they do or not is none of the Legislature's business. That responsibility belongs to the parents and the ski slope. Let's not follow California's lead in transferring the authority for those decisions to politicians."
An editorial in The Denver Post Sept. 3 stated: "A rule specifically for children recognizes that they lack the perspective and life experience to accurately assess the dangers posed by riding without head protection. If resorts were to make helmets for kids a requirement, there would be no rationale for legislation, or for the state to get involved in resort business.
"Enforcement for resorts would be simple enough - no helmet, no lift access. Checking for helmets would be easier than scanning lift passes.
"Colorado ski resorts have long displayed an abiding interest in safety, and a rule requiring helmets for children would be another example of that commitment."