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Senator Brian Jones. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Off-Road Vehicle Regulation Bill Introduced Again in Senate

SB 227 aims to save off-road vehicle competitions in California

By Evan Symon, January 18, 2021 6:13 pm

During the week, a competition motorcycle and ATV bill that would add numerous regulations to off-road and racing events on public land was introduced in the Senate following a similar bill failing to pass due to last year’s shortened, COVID-19 delayed legislative session.

Senate Bill 227, authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) would allow off-highway vehicle (OHV) competitions to continue in California after the Red Sticker program, which allows these competitions to legally operate, is due to end in the state this year. Specifically, SB 227 would create a new off-highway vehicle identification program under the California Department of Parks and Recreation that would continue legal off-road competitions and practice for the near future, as well as collect money from permits to fund environmental initiatives and law enforcement programs.

The bill is a virtual carbon-copy of last year’s Senate Bill 1024, also authored by Senator Jones. Much like SB 227, SB 1024 suggested that a Competition sticker replace the Red Sticker needed to legally off-road competitively. While some vehicles, such as motorcycles, would no longer need such identification, higher fees would be applied for DMV and California Highway Patrol costs. All competition motorcycles and ATVs would also need mandatory spark arresters, mufflers, or silencers to limit noise when on public lands to address one of the few issues continually brought up by off-road competitions.

While SB 1024 was passed by a bipartisan majority in both the Senate and the Assembly, the lateness of the vote last year due to a rush of urgent COVID-19 and economic bills made the vote occur on September 1st, making it too late to be official. Despite SB 1024 subsequently being scrapped in the inactive file during the fall and winter hiatus, the bipartisan support late last week for the new SB 227 has made Senator Jones optimistic that it will be passed this year.

“This measure is a result of extensive collaboration last year between OHV stakeholders and all the affected government agencies, including CARB and State Parks,” Senator Jones said in a press release late last week. “Off-Highway competitions are a treasured sport that play a key role in the economies of suburban and rural California, which is of great importance given the current economic downturn. SB 227 will allow OHV competitors to continue their long history in a prosperous sport with safe practices.”

SB 227 important for off-road enthusiasts, struggling small towns

While there is no opposition formed against the bill as of Monday, off-road enthusiasts told the Globe that SB 227 was vitally important for many, especially in rural areas.

“Without a new program to replace the Red Sticker in California you’re going to see a lot of businesses die,” explained Matt Hollander, an ATV racer and instructor in San Bernardino County. “First, it benefits us. We like doing this, and with COVID-19, it’s an outside activity that you can be social distanced in. Heck, many of us wore masks before anyway before COVID-19 out there.

“But it filters down too. The money we pay for permits, the Red Sticker, and everything goes to a lot of government programs. And since many of the meetups and races are in rural areas, we’re looking at bringing a lot of business to rural communities, many of which have been hit hard by COVID-19.  So, gas, food, garage, parts, the list goes on. If you don’t renew this or start a new program, not only are you taking away something hundreds, thousands of people like doing in the state, but you’re cutting off a big tax stream and you’re hurting these local communities even more.

“Everyone wins if it’s passed. For small towns struggling right now, you can’t just make one bill and give them a lot of money and expect it all to be ok. You need to give them several streams of money to get by, and off-roading is one of those major streams.”

SB 227 is expected to be assigned to a committee in the coming weeks.

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