Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Our Opinion: Three legislators kill popular ATV bill

More than one-third of the Legislature and many groups supported it

When is three greater than 37? When the Legislature starts counting votes.

A bill with wide bipartisan support in the Legislature and broad backing from groups that traditionally don’t get along with each other was killed this week.

The bill, which would have required that all-terrain vehicles be registered and owners pay a user fee, was co-sponsored by 37 legislators, more than one-third of the total.

HB 2573 easily passed the House 43-13, with four members not voting. It was sent to the Senate and assigned to the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.

The bill died Wednesday on a 3-3 vote. The only southern Arizona senator on the committee, Marsha Arzberger, a Democrat from Willcox, voted to support the bill.

ATV safety and control legislation is a definite need in Arizona, and the bill had support on the basis of widespread concurrence on that point.

Off-road vehicle use has risen sharply, by 350 percent since 1998, the Arizona Game & Fish Department reports. That has exacerbated the issues of rider safety and environmental damage.

The bill would have required ATV owners to register their vehicles and pay about $23 annually into a fund for education and enforcement of laws and regulations.

About $8 million would have been raised annually, state officials estimate, with 70 percent going to a new fund to be used by state agencies that manage land. The rest would have been added to the existing Highway User Revenue Fund.

Money from the bill would have paid for seven full-time law-enforcement officers to oversee ATV use across the state. It was not aimed at restricting the use of ATVs.

The bill also required helmets for riders under age 17.

A 2007 study by “Pediatrics” magazine found that the number of children injured in ATV accidents jumped nearly 90 percent from 1990 to 2003, when 130,900 injuries were reported. In addition, about 1,900 children were killed in ATV accidents in 2003.

The study’s authors cited helmets as a key way to reduce injuries and death for young ATV riders.

Among those backing the bill were environmental and conservation organizations, sportsmen enthusiasts, ATV riding groups and an industry group representing ATV dealers, an impressive diversity of interests.

It also had support from the Arizona State Parks Board and Game & Fish.

This was a bill that a broad spectrum of Arizonans wanted.

Yet it was killed by three people.

No bill in the Legislature is ever totally dead until the session is over.

We urge lawmakers to resurrect and pass the contents of HB 2573.

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