J. Paul Fights for ATV Legislation

 

By Peter Marcus Herald staff writer

ATV legislation again drives into Legislature

Legislation that would allow all-terrain vehicles on county roads stands its best chance in the Colorado Legislature this year.

DENVER – An effort in the Colorado Legislature to allow off-highway vehicles on county roads may finally drive over the finish line.

More than seven years in the making, lawmakers from the Durango area have tried in earnest to convince their colleagues to offer a legislative solution.

The laws around allowing all-terrain vehicles on county roads are hazy.

The San Juan Mountain counties of Hinsdale, Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel have enacted off-highway vehicle ordinances that put them at odds with state law.

Several counties have gone as far as to require liability insurance and a valid driver’s license to operate the vehicles.

The state, for the most part, has not interfered.

But counties wanted legislation to clarify authority.

The most recent iteration of legislation last year ran into troubles over financing. The problem revolved around how much revenue would be generated from registration requirements, estimated at $6 million.

The dilemma is that the new revenue would fall under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which is subject to taxpayer refunds, leaving lawmakers having to cut important areas of the state budget in a balancing act.

But Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, who led an impressive stakeholder process, may have found a solution.

His legislation this year, House Bill 1030, was heavily amended on Wednesday to allow counties to require insurance and a valid driver’s license to operate the vehicles on roads.

What’s key is that the amended bill stops short of requiring visible identification tags, which would have been considered registration, thereby adding to revenue.

“It’s been a little frustrating, but we actually came to consensus here,” Brown said.

“The tire tracks up my back from crawling out from underneath this bus are getting a little bit old,” added Jen Boulton, a lobbyist who has followed the process for Colorado Trout Unlimited.

The legislation passed unanimously in the House Local Government Committee, and now heads to Finance for consideration – more of a formality at this point without a fiscal impact.

While the bill stands the best chance yet of passing out of the Legislature, lawmakers are discussing coming back next year to address the outstanding registration issue.

Some local governments would like ATVs to be registered with visible tags for identification and tracking purposes, which would assist law enforcement.

“The visible ID plates is something that there’s a lot of passionate stakeholders interested in resolving that,” said Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett, who has worked on a legislative fix for seven years.

“We need to have consistency.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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