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OF THE YEAR
One of the few events to go on as scheduled this winter was the annual Jack
Helgren Memorial Lemans Championship Race at Clear Lake Jan. 17. The
sixth annual competition featured vintage and late model ice racing as well
youth events in the Kitty Cat and 120 division.
Snowmobilers Left Out in Cold on 10-Cent Tax Hike;
No Fuel Tax Reimbursement Fund Amendment
A 10-cent tax hike on a gallon of fuel in Iowa passed the Iowa
Legislature the last week of February, and there was no mention of
snowmobilers finally getting reimbursed a portion of the taxes they pay on
the fuel consumed in their off-road machines.
For more than a decade, the ISSA has been lobbying for this funding,
regularly citing the Marine Fuel Tax Program in Iowa which returns a portion
of the state taxes paid on fuel used in watercraft. The state’s boating
community uses this money for infrastructure around lakes and rivers, and
Iowa snowmobilers wanted a similar fund to help offset the rising costs of
trail maintenance and groomer purchases.
Leaders within the organization felt the only way they would get a
toehold on this proposal was to ride the coattails of any legislation
introduced to increase the state’s fuel tax for the first time since 1989. As
they learned early on in the 2015 legislative session, bipartisan
lawmarkers were determined to pass this legislation without any special-
“It looks like they are going to pass the fuel tax bill with no amendments
next week,” ISSA Lobbyist Mike Heller wrote in his weekly update Feb. 21.
“Legislative leaders and the Governor lobbied members hard to garner the
necessary votes for passage and to resist any amendments.”
On another legislative topic, the ISSA is inching closer to preserving
snowmobile trail access across divided highways and interstates. The
language clarification stems from a situation in Region 9, where a
disgruntled homeowner is challenging the legality of snowmobilers
crossing primary highways. Sponsored by the Senate’s Natural Resource
and Environment Committee, the bill is moving forward.
“It was a good week at the Capitol for snowmobilers,” Heller said Feb.
14. “The ISSA proposal (SSB 1119) was voted out of committee and placed
on the calendar. It is now Senate File 218 and is eligible for debate by the
full Senate. The bill will preserve access to countless miles of trails that
cross primary highways.”
IDNR Considering Snowmobile Program Changes
As announced by Rhonda Fowler of the IDNR’s snowmobile and ATV
program at the ISSA Board of Directors meeting in January, the department is
considering a proposal that would extend the recertification period for
groomer operators from three to five years.
By last June, all operators in Iowa needed to be recertified with the
understanding they would need to take the education course again in another
three years. The IDNR’s proposal would now extend their license another two
“What we are trying to do is get groomer operators to recertify every five
years, instead of every three years, which will make it easier on the groomer
operators as well as the instructors,” Fowler said.
Another change being considered is to perform driver’s license checks
every five years for current groomer operators to ensue compliance. “If an
operator loses his or her license, then it is the responsibility of that operator
to not operate that groomer,” Fowler said.
The department is also trying to make it so youth safety instructors only
need to be recertified every three years to follow the rotation of the state
convention. “That way every three years, the convention will be in their area,
and they can recertify without travelling a long distance,” Fowler said.
More information on these initiatives will be announced later this year.