DENVER – A measure that would allow off-highway vehicles on county roads drove past another hurdle Tuesday in the Colorado Legislature, and is likely to survive – which would end more than seven years of conversations.
The bill made it through the House, where it was introduced by Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, and on Tuesday was unanimously passed by the Senate Local Government Committee. It heads to the Senate Finance Committee, which is more of a formality given that it no longer has a fiscal impact after amendments.
“I will just remind everyone of how important OHV use is as a critical aspect of the summer economies of some of these towns. ... This does become the driving economy of some of our rural towns, largely in southern Colorado,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Wolcott, the Senate sponsor.
The bill would allow counties to require insurance and a valid driver’s license to operate the vehicles on roads. But it stops short of requiring visible identification tags, which would have generated revenue through registration fees.
Similar legislation hit a roadblock last year because the revenue would have fallen under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which is subject to taxpayer refunds. Lawmakers would have been forced to cut other areas of the state budget to address the dilemma.
Supporters point out that people already drive ATVs on roads.
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. The state, for the most part, has not interfered.
There are concerns, however, over not requiring the visible identification tags, which would assist law enforcement in enforcing rules and identifying stolen vehicles. It’s possible that lawmakers may address the issue in the future.
Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, said she received a letter from the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, both of which oppose the measure. The organizations underscored that ATVs are designed for off-road use, not for paved roads.
“We all know that kids do something that is crazy sometimes,” Humenik said. “We don’t want to lose lives.”