Amongst the latest batch of vetoes handed out by Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (D) Friday was Senate Bill (SB) 1100, from Senator Frank Carroll (R-Sun City), which aimed to update the legal definition of recreational off-highway vehicles (OHV).

Specifically, this bill would have updated the maximum unladen weight of an OHV from 2,500 pounds to 3,500. Under Arizona law, a person cannot operate an OHV unless it is under the weight limit and they receive a user indicia from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) via an application and fee. Additionally, OHVs are subject to a vehicle license tax, in this case, three dollars.

While this may seem like a trivial change, Carroll said it could have provided positive changes to the state.

“This bill would have promoted small businesses in Arizona and supported electric alternatives to gas-powered OHVs, which would have helped reduce exhaust and noise emissions. A number of states who regulate weights of OHVs have already updated their statute to coincide with the industry’s technological advancements,” Carroll said in a statement following the veto.

A report from Axios backs up the lawmaker’s claim regarding electric vehicles (EVs), as the battery these cars use makes the weight difference. For example, the 2023 GMC Hummer EV weighs roughly 9,000 pounds, whereas the 2023 GMC Sierra, a full-sized pickup similar to the Hummer, weighs under 6,000 pounds. The weight difference between gas and electric vehicles has caused some nationwide concern, and calls have begun to update infrastructure to prepare roads and parking garages for the increased weight.

As for SB 1100, Hobbs cited concerns with allowing heavier vehicles to cruise along the Arizona countryside. In her veto letter, Hobbs wrote that there should be strategies in place to mitigate damages that off-highway trails may incur from heavier vehicles. Additionally, Hobbs said the Legislature should work with her administration and the Off-Highway Vehicle Study Committee (OHVSC) before sponsoring a bill like this.

The OHVSC was created by Senator Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye) in 2022. The committee is comprised of legislative members and other officials from across the state. It is responsible for delivering annual reports detailing issues caused by OHVs with potential solutions, but the committee will automatically end in January 2024. The OHVSC was established because some rural Arizonans complained about the noise created by these vehicles, and off-trail driving caused damage to Arizona’s natural scenery.

However, Carroll argued that Hobbs’s logic of saying his bill needs permission from the committee for his bill is flawed.

“Governor Hobbs’ veto letter stated she believes the Off-Highway Study Committee established last session, instead of the Legislature, should determine whether OHVs with cab systems and electric powertrains can be legally operated in Arizona. However, this study committee was formed to address concerns stemming from improper use of OHVs and enforcement issues, not whether policymakers should amend the state’s OHV definition to allow new products to be available for our outdoor enthusiasts,” said Carroll. “It’s disappointing Governor Hobbs vetoed a bill that had strong bipartisan support, as well as support from the sponsor who established the Off-Highway Study Committee.”

SB 1100 passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.

Moreover, as reported by The Arizona Sun Times, Hobbs’s recent vetoes also affect vehicles used on Arizona’s roadways too. State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) sponsored SB 1234, which aimed to ban the use of red-light cameras. While Hobbs said these cameras are an essential tool for law enforcement, Rogers said they are more of a scam than anything.

Hobbs has already broken the Arizona veto record during this session, but as she has continued to strike down bills, she is near the triple-digit line. As of writing, Hobbs is sitting at 99 bills vetoed.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Frank Carroll” by Elect Frank Carroll. Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Katie Hobbs. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.