Bureaucracy is a crazy (but apparently, in government circles, necessary) way to approach legislation.
This is why I think I will start calling it Bureaucrazy.
I have always had the desire to do more for OHV area advocacy.
I decided it was time to do more than just draft and send letters to our elected officials asking them to please help maintain, if not expand, the lands designated for our preferred recreational activity of motorcycle trail riding. I’ve also occasionally offered some of these letters for use on several forum threads calling for notifying our elected officials. I wanted to try to learn a little of what is actually involved at the legislative level.
How fortuitous it was then that I found out about a day dedicated to lobby our state representatives at their place of business. Yes… The California state Capitol in Sacramento.
The event was the 13 annual Capitol Lobby Day and Legislative Reception.
This was put on by CLORV. (California League of Off Road Voters)
I had no idea what I was getting into but was hoping to learn more about OHV advocacy and how it is presented to our representatives. I definitely jumped into the deep end of the learning pool by starting at this function!
In my years of off road riding I have heard of many advocacy groups.
BRC, CORVA, AMA, ORBA, Salinas Ramblers, and quite a few others.
But I hadn’t heard of CLORV and this I find truly remarkable.
After spending the day following their agenda around the State Capitol building I have a completely new respect and admiration to the dedication and effort these folks put into not only trying to keep OHV areas open… but in trying to make the Bureacrazy work like it is supposed to work.
I strongly urge all OHV enthusiasts and users to check out CLORV’s web page.
If you want to contact your local elected official you will find them all listed on this site (go to the pulldown for “Legislators” at the top of the page). http://www.clorv.org/
As some may be aware our OHV registration money (yeah, the red and green stickers fees) are “supposed” to be put back into maintaining the designated OHV parks scattered around the state.
What I didn’t (really) realize is just how little of these funds actually make it back into the maintenance, care and expansion (yeah… right) of these OHV parks.
Interestingly enough this info is not contained in any “single” location for review. The OHV registration monies collected are widely dispersed and not easily Visible or Accountable. I’m still trying to get more info (where available) on this aspect of where our fees go.
Another interesting factoid that was pointed out is that the OHV fees program is a “sunrise” type program.
That means it isn’t permanent and must be renewed each year (or was it two?)… or it just ends. Stops. Goes away!
Yet another remarkable factoid is that the OHV parks (and fees) program is the oldest Sunshine program in the state of California. It just keeps getting renewed each year (or two?). Could it be because it brings in between 45 and 60 million dollars to the state coffers?
Some of the “buzz words/statements” I came away with from this day at the Capitols observations.
- Visibility and Accountability is needed when it comes to the dispensing of State collected OHV Fees.
- We don’t have much, but what we have “they” seem to keep taking away.
- The OHV user numbers are growing much faster than ever before. Yet our designated spaces are going the other way. Downsized, restricted and just plain closed.
- A higher degree of individual user level Off road advocacy is needed.
But I digress.
Today’s Capitol Lobby Day event called on OHV advocate volunteers from around the state to meet at Sacramento and be divided into groups of folks from the different Legislatures constituency areas.
I was informed that at over 100 people today’s Lobby Day was the largest turnout ever! And still there weren’t enough people to go around. And I do mean around!
What these groups did was to go to each Senator and Assembly members office (those who were in the Capitol today anyway) and introduce themselves as OHV enthusiasts and voters. These teams discussed the desire and need to provide OHV facilities for the safe use by the voters in their districts. There was also OHV advocacy information packages presented to each elected official met.
One difficulty these teams had to face is that not many of these new elected officials have declared their stance on OHV usage and funding. This required tact and perseverance to get the agenda across without alienating anyone.
There are 40 senators (currently 15 republicans & 25 democrats).
There are 80 Assembly members (currently 32 republicans & 48 democrats)
This was a landmark year in the state congress because there were so many new Senators and Assembly members voted in during the last election. Many of these have no idea what their OHV using constituents consider important so this was a very good opportunity to discuss the wants and needs of the OHV community to these newly elected officials while they are new to the job. And hopefully they haven’t yet been overwhelmed by “anti” OHV efforts.
Of course some will already have a negative viewing of OHV usage.
It’s our task, all of us, to let each member in the legislature know that we do care about where our OHV funds are used as well as how these funds are used.
I kind of wanted to join in on some of these office visits, but also felt somewhat “out of place”. This was (to me) most likely because I was the only OHV supporter there dressed in leather road riding gear. Leather riding pants and a T-shirt just don’t “quite” fit in, in this environment.
Most of the OHV reps came in business attire, which presented a much more positive appearance (at least to the business regime that government facilities seem to require). So I limited my appearances to the frequent gathering of the OHV reps as the day carried on. Here I was able to get some insight into their mission and the goings on of the day.
There were also group presentations made by a few of the more visible and Pro-OHV advocates at the capitol. These included Senators Dick Ackerman (Orange County) and Daphne Green Deputy Director of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of CA Parks and Recreation department. (OHMVR)
Some example statements I overheard from various people…
One district (in CA) had a $16M OHV fund and “only” $378,000 of this went to actual trail maintenance.
Fee increases at OHV Parks are being done because the OHV Fee’s collected by the state are not making it to where they should be used, or are not being used appropriately.
In the past OHV advocates have pretty much been on the defensive. Trying to “counter” what the “Green” advocates and others throw out there in their studies and lawsuits.
The opinion of some at this gathering is that OHV supporters need to go on the offensive.
Some are doing so by demanding visibility and accountability as to where their OHV funds are really going.
In some instances, where “in lieu funds” have been accounted for but not used as required by the OHV commission rules the OHV area management has been confronted and held to account for this discrepancy.
Carnegie OHV Park… There is over 1500 acres of land bought for the use of this park that has not yet been opened to park users. (and no, this was not purchased as “buffer zone” land) When the Carnegie management was recently held to task about opening this land they said it was because they didn’t have the money to install fences to keep riders away from where they were not supposed to be (neighboring private property). When the rather large sum of OHV Fee money provided (over the years) to Carnegie for this type construction was pointed out they then said they did not have the time or resources to build the trails for this yet unused area. Again the misspent “in lieu” money was pointed out with no defense for this discrepancy coming from this areas management.
OHV activists have threatened lawsuits against Carnegie to either return this money or start opening the areas “already paid for”. Now that the notion of “returning money” has been presented the Carnegie management is actively pursuing getting this additional land (bought over 15 years ago) opened to the public.
We absolutely need more of this.
Another topic continually discussed is SB742 that was authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg and Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (who are the chairs of the respective committees that deal with off road recreation).
Part of the impact of this bill is that because of a recent fuel tax study it has been determined that it will probably be necessary to raise registration (green/red sticker fees) to maintain the off road program at it’s current level. (I heard a doubling of the fee’s, or a halving of the fee period… which is the same thing really)
(FYI – it was mentioned that currently OHV Fee’s raise $56M – $58 M a year)
The off road community activists and lobby are currently attending weekly meetings with the committee staff and other stakeholders to see if an agreement can be reached on the bill’s language that the off road community can/will support.
This is basically that, for the off road community to support higher fees we will need to be assured that SB742 addresses our concerns.
What are these concerns that OHV lobbyists seeking to be addressed in order to support this bill?
- A permanent OHV program. The current program has been in existence for over 30 years and is due to expire on July 1, 2008. (remember my early comment about the “sunshine” status of this program)
- A change in the makeup of the OHV Recreation Commission.
Basically this comes down to the fact that the current commission is appointed as follows… The Governer appoints 3 members. The Speaker of the Assembly appoints two commission members and the head of the Senate Rules Committee appoints 2 members. (see here… http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=21853)
Currently the governer does not have control of a majority of the appointments to the commission. This is not the case in over 90% of Californias other 300+ Boards and commissions.
- Appropriate levels of grant funding for the actual operation and maintenance of existing off road recreation areas as well as establishing new off road areas to meet the growing demand.
This is to address the fact that currently off road funding is not being apportioned correctly to accommodate the off road recreation needs with too much being allocated to restoration and conservation.
- To be recognized that we are environmentalists as well, but there needs to be a balance.
By this it means that we are willing to stick to the rules defined for each off road recreation area, but that there needs to be balance to these rules. Basically addressing the closure of vast areas of OHV designated (and paid for) land because of some technically small environmental issue.
It was stated that although this is not an overall favorable bill for the OHV community it appears to be the “best we can get” for now.
It was also mentioned that if the above concerns were not addressed by the committee actions then the OHV community would have no choice but to rally against this bill and do everything in it’s power to have it defeated.
There is so much more that went on during this day that I would like to pass on.
My mind is awash in the information I picked up yesterday.
I strongly encourage you to take a stance and let your local representative know that you are an OHV user and do want to help them understand the benefits of this type recreation. Not just to your mind, body and soul… but also to the communities where OHV recreation brings a positive cash flow and has significant voter representation.
A telling statement that I heard from one District 36 rep was… We are so much stronger than many of the environmental advocates working against our goals but we have just begun to realize how and why. We need to build this strength and focus it where it will do the most good. And that is with our elected officials who have the power to improve the OHV facilities and lands that we so cherish.
If you’ve read all the way down to here in this quite long post it means you care!
It means you have an interest in OHV lands and their continued use and maintenance.
In that case… you better become part of the solution to the very obvious problem our riding lands face.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) take the time to contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel please, at the very least, donate some money to an organization that makes this their mission.
After seeing what I saw on this trip I believe they earn every penny they receive!
It is just very difficult to “summarize” the info I heard at the capitol without making omissions that could cause a misrepresentation of the issue being discussed.
So much, so fast, so deep. Crazy!