A bill that would add numerous regulations to off-highway vehicle (OHV) events on public land was introduced in the Senate for the third time in three years on Monday, with supporters hoping that the bill will make it through both houses and be signed by the Governor this time around.
Senate Bill 894, authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee), would end the requirement for motorcycles to have special identification devices, as well as their corresponding fees, beginning in January 2024. Other OHVs, such as ATVs, would not be exempt. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would also ease the way for the issuance and renewal of competition identification for newer, post-2021 vehicles. A special $42 dollar fee would also be added for those newer OHVs, with funds going into a trust fund for the Department and Recreation to use on OHV matters. Exemptions for mufflers, spark arresters, silencers and other devices that limit noise would also be significantly reduced, leading to quieter competitions.
SB 894 is almost identical to the previous iterations of the bill, both also authored by Jones. In August 2020, SB 1024 passed in the Assembly a day before the session ended, but due to a rush of economic and COVID-19 related bills, the bill failed to make it to a deciding Senate vote in time. A year later it was tried again with SB 227, but, once again, the bill had a late start. Just before a critical Assembly Appropriations bill, SB 227 was placed on the suspense file thanks to a crunch of other bills and never came back up again.
This time around, the bill for a new OHV program has been deemed urgent by many supporters. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) red sticker program, which previously allowed off-road competitions, ended last year with no replace to it. Since it ended, things have gone into disarray, with some areas still issuing stickers, some not, and many not sure if the off-road competitions are permissible.
As these competitions often bring in economic boons to many rural and unincorporated areas in the state, with many still recovering from the COVID-19 economic downturn, SB 894 aims to bring back a program and bring back fully cleared competitions to these areas, with noise reduction measures in to help assuage any noise concerns from locals.
“As the saying goes, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’” said Senator Jones on Monday. “OHV stakeholders, government agencies, and many others have worked hard the last few years on this issue. Last year, the environmental community joined these discussions, and we were able to work out a compromise that removed their previous opposition. Unfortunately, the Assembly Appropriations Committee held the bill in committee. Our bi-partisan coalition looks forward to getting this year’s measure to the Governor’s Desk for signature.”
Support for SB 894
The bill has received support from many outdoors and OHV groups such as the Coalition for Public Access and the California Motorcycle Dealers Association, with many locals nearby popular competition areas and OHV riders championing the bill.
“Whenever we come into town, shop owners are pretty glad to see us,” explained Matt Hollander, an ATV racer and instructor in San Bernardino County. “It can be weird to see a bunch of people who look like punks keep entering convenience stores or gas stations or other businesses, but whatever misgivings they have is usually forgiven when we clear out thousands of sales in a day. Auto parts stores too, as we usually go there too.
“During the bad days of COVID, where we did this as one of the few safe social distancing activities, we were a Godsend to many who were struggling through this. Some restaurants, we would do these large orders and one even asked if we were kidding because they had not had an order that big for years.
“This is a fun thing for us, and it benefits a lot of people. This has seemed like a no-brainer for me for the last few year. Plus now, we really do need it.”
Currently there is no Senate or Assembly opposition to the bill. SB 894 is expected to be brought to a Senate Committee in the near future.