Righting a silly wrong

February 21, 2001 11:00 pm

An act of Congress a common expression for a severe degree of difficulty.

Its a shame that in Oregon it can be aptly applied to some of the simplest things.

Like when a bureaucracy recognizes a mistake and swiftly corrects it to the immediate detriment of thousands of citizens.

Such was the case when authority for registering all-terrain vehicles was transferred from the Department of Motor Vehicles to the State Parks and Recreation Department, a dictate of the 1999 Legislature.

DMV had for years licensed ATVs not only for use on trails, but on public roadways. But in the shuffle from DMV to state parks, someone made a startling discover: the practice of registering ATVs for the road wasnt authorized by law.

Practically overnight, 1,200 ATVs licensed for on-street use became unlicensed vehicles, despite the best efforts of their owners.

The impact was ridiculous. Suddenly a farmer or rancher doing his daily chores was, in effect, a criminal.

The outcry was sharp, from the agriculture industry, ATV retailers and the media, including this newspaper.

At the time, we condemned the DMVs failure to await a legislative solution before disolving those legitimate licenses that had suddenly been deemed illegitimate.

Fortunately, lawmakers seem poised to restore a customer service focus for DMV and state parks.

Legislation that would allow farmers and ranchers to drive ATVs on public roads is making its way through the legislature now.

We trust the law will have full support from Sen. Ted Ferrioli and Rep. Greg Smith.

The legislature should go one step further and grant retroactive amnesty to any agricultural ATV users who can prove their rigs were registered prior to the DMV cancellation and have been cited by state or local law enforcement officers in the interim.

It seemed like a silly problem, but it was very real for farmers and ranchers.

Too bad it will take an act of the legislature to put things right.