ANNAPOLIS – Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday on a bill requiring operators of all-terrain vehicles to pay an $18 registration fee to the Motor Vehicle Administration.
The bill requires all-terrain vehicle (ATV) operators to display an MVA decal and carry proof of current registration.
The bill also requires operators of all-terrain vehicles to obtain and carry written permission from the owners of private property on which they ride.
Supporters of the bill called the measure a necessary step to stem environmental damage and criminal activity by off- roaders.
Opponents termed it “another Band-aid form of legislation against motorcycling.”
The bill has failed to clear the Commerce and Government Matters Committee for the past five years.
The Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the measure for its safety provisions, including education programs and the required wearing of helmets and goggles.
But Richard Riley, treasurer of the Maryland Motorcycle Dealers Association, calls the MVA registration unnecessary.
“Education and a place to ride is what we really want,” Riley said.
Under the bill, the Department of Natural Resources would designate and develop recreational areas for ATV use.
The DNR currently charges $15 to register off-road vehicles using public land. Gene Piotrowski, DNR director of resource planning, testified that fees generated by the approximately 700 vehicles registered are used for maintenance and upkeep of land. The DNR’s registration program does not fund educational programs, nor does it provide for new construction. Neither does the current proposal.
The money generated by the MVA fees would go into the state’s general fund, except for $2 per registration, which would cover MVA administrative costs. The MVA estimates that 5,000 vehicles would be required to register and display a decal.
Riley, who closed his Frederick motorcycle dealership for the day to testify, also cited numerous problems with the MVA decals, including the carryover of old decals by a new owner, the ease of removing a sticker to avoid identification by law enforcement and the simple fact that ATVs are often covered by dirt and mud, obscuring any decals displayed.
But Del. James W. Campbell (D-Baltimore), sole sponsor of the bill since 1992, points out that 31 states now require registration of ATVs. Campbell originally pitched the bill to counter problems in Baltimore City parks.
Richard Preski, representing the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, said ATVs cause more than $100,000 in damage to the city’s parks each year.
“When you play ball in the city,” Preski said, “You get pretty upset when there are ruts around second base.”
Preski said repairing the damage takes parks workers away from other projects “just to re-sod fields and fill in ruts.”
But Riley said the proposal forces the rest of the state to pay the price for Baltimore City’s problems.
“I would rewrite the whole bill and trash this rascal,” Riley said. Del. Gerald J. Curran (D-Baltimore), committee chairman, may take up Riley’s suggestion. Curran recommended forming a subcommittee to study the problem, enlisting the aid of Tuesday’s witnesses. -30-