NASHVILLE — A piece of legislation currently before the Tennessee General Assembly would assess a $10 fee for riders at Brimstone or North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area during event weekends.
However, state Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, the bill's sponsor, said the language in the legislation was unintendedly broadened and will be amended before final consideration.
As written, Senate Bill 812 — the companion bill of which is sponsored in the House by Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown — would assess a $10 fee for non-residents of Scott County who operate off-highway vehicles on recreational trails, public or private, during event periods. Local residents would be assessed a $4 fee.
An event period is defined as a scheduled happening that will attract 5,000 or more people over a seven-day period.
The bill is the result of a resolution passed by Scott County Commission requesting the state amend a recent law to impose an additional fee on ATV registrations.
That law, which took effect Jan. 1, allows side-by-side ATVs to be operated on any public road, with the exception of state or federal highways, with a registration that can be purchased from the state. Scott County has argued that because most of the registration fee is collected by the state, with only a small administrative fee returned to local government, the state should allow for an additional fee to be charged for ATVs that are registered in Scott County. Proponents of the amended law on County Commission have argued that the local-option fee would help offset costs incurred by Scott County during event weekends hosted by Brimstone and Trails End Campground.
County Commission originally considered asking for a private act that would apply only to Scott County. After much discussion, including conversations with the county's delegation in the state legislature, commissioners opted to approve a resolution seeking an amendment to the general law.
The result of that resolution, Senate Bill 812, refers to Scott County as the "Adventure Tourism Capital of Tennessee," and states that recent large, off-highway vehicle events have attracted thousands of people to the county. Because those events have "placed an increased burden on the county government to provide emergency services, including law enforcement, first aid, and ambulance services, all of which are disproportionate to the ordinary needs of local communities within Scott County," the bill reads, and because the activities have also resulted in an increased burden on the local road department for road maintenance, the bill seeks a temporary permit fee for each off-highway vehicle "operated on any private or public recreational trail or area as part of a large event."
The cost would be $10 for non-residents and $4 for local residents. The legislation would require 50 percent of the proceeds from the temporary permit fee to be collected by the county for emergency services, with the other 50 percent designated for other expenses incurred by the county as a result of the ATV events.
While the legislation is specific to Scott County, its language is specifically worded to further restrict it to just Scott County. As written, it would apply only to counties having a population of 22,000 to 22,245 as of the 2010 federal census or any subsequent census. Scott County's population as of the 2010 census was 22,240.
As written, the legislation would charge a $10 permit fee for any ATV riding on trails that are maintained by Brimstone during events such as its upcoming White Knuckle Event on Memorial Day weekend, although the potential new law would not apply to the 2017 White Knuckle Event because it would not take effect until July 1.
In discussions prior to passing the resolution seeking an amendment to the state law, Scott County Commission did not discuss an additional fee for ATVs being operated on recreational trails. Contacted by the Independent Herald Wednesday, Yager said the bill was unintentionally broadened beyond the intent of Scott County when it was written by the Senate's legal staff. Those staffers are responsible for authoring legislation on behalf of the Senate members.
Yager added that the bill will be amended. He said he had been in contact with Scott County attorney John Beaty, and that the amended version of the legislation would reflect the intent of County Commission's original resolution.
The legislation was deferred in the Senate's Transportation and Safety Committee earlier this week, and has been scheduled to be heard on Monday. The House version of the legislation has been placed on the calendar of the House Transportation Subcommittee for Wednesday, March 22. Yager said further action will be postponed until the bill is amended.