New Laws and New Legislators! (Larry Tucker)
Published on Sunday, November 14, 2010 in Guest Columns, Legislative Affairs, News & Updates
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I hope everyone’s favorite candidate has been elected and that we may even have elected some avid snowmobilers and some new supporters to our legislature. This would be a refreshing change for us down in Boston. There’s an old saying in politics that goes; “If you want a friend, you must first be a friend.” So, if you had helped your legislator get elected by putting up a lawn sign or holding a sign for him/her during these past elections, you will now have a friend during this upcoming legislative session. Meanwhile, we also have a new law to study and understand, as it touches upon many aspects of our sport of snowmobiling.
During this legislative session, over 300 bills have been signed into new laws and of these 300 new laws, the one that Governor Deval Patrick signed on July 31st, 2010, is having a significant impact on the sport of ATV’s and on our sport of snowmobiling. By now, you have all heard something about this new “ATV bill.” Commonly referred to as “Sean’s Law,” and named after 8-year old Sean Kearney, who was killed in an ATV accident in 2006. This bill has accomplished its’ original intention of further restricting the age use for all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) by prohibiting children under 14 from riding ATV’s. Until now children as young as 12 could ride ATV’s.
The age limits did not change for the sport of snowmobiling. This came about through the efforts the SAM Legislative Committee and, were it not for the countless hours of effort, the impact of this bill could have been much greater on our sport.
This is a rather large bill and it will take some time for riders, enthusiasts, snowmobilers, EPO’s and the community at large to understand all the “fine print” contained within. With so much content, there are a couple of aspects of this bill that deserve some comment.
This bill dramatically increases penalties for infractions for both ATV’s and snowmobiles. For example, the bill increases the maximum penalty for DUI (driving under the influence) from $75 up to $5,000 and, for some infractions, it allows the courts to impound the vehicle, for others, to suspend a person’s right to operate a motor vehicle. Also included in this bill is a provision that reverts back to the old requirement of having 3-inch high registration letters on both sides of a snowmobile’s cowling. The state is currently trying to figure out how to successfully implement this absurd requirement.
This bill, fortunately, also takes the important first steps to establish a mandatory training/education program for ATV riders under the age of 18. It is refreshing that Massachusetts finally recognizes the benefits of educating our youth, as this will serve to promote a safer, more enjoyable trail system in the future. Since this bill did not include snowmobiles, it is apparent that we in SAM will have more work to do to assure passage of our own Safety/Training bill: Bill # H804 (redrafted as Bill #H4608). As I reported in last month’s issue, this bill has already received a “favorable report” and has a very good chance to pass during this session.
Another important provision of this bill is that it both encourages and allows for ATV riders to join clubs and a state association with the benefit of obtaining trail permission for the club or association rather than having to obtain written permission from many individual landowners. Members of snowmobile clubs and SAM have benefited for many years from having a strong organizational structure to help create, maintain and protect our trail system.
There are only a few precious weeks left in what remains of this “informal” legislative session that will end on December 31st. With the elections over I hope you will all now have a chance to discuss our issues, which are contained in Bill #H741; Bill # H772; and Bill # H804 (redrafted as Bill #H4608) with your legislators and state your opinions to them. Hearing from you helps educate them about our sport of snowmobiling.

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