DENVER–Bipartisan legislation introduced to ease the burden on registering surplus military vehicles for highway use was gutted and its original intent reversed by the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee March 13.
Using a parliamentary procedure called “strike and replace,” the committee voted to remove the original text and replace it with completely different text.
The re-worked bill was heard Friday by the House Appropriations Committee, where it was referred to the House Committee of the Whole by a vote of 11-0.
Senate Bill 19-054, sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara, originally allowed the titling and registration of surplus military vehicles that were “commonly used by the United States Armed Forces to transport persons or property over the highway.”
Examples include the military “Humvee,” the “deuce-and-a-half” and 5-ton cargo trucks and variations such as military wreckers.
The bill exempted such vehicles from being inspected for things like airbags and other safety-related requirements that military vehicles are not originally equipped with.
It also provided a waiver for emissions inspections. Military vehicles are not constructed to meet current emission standards and cannot be modified to achieve them.
These vehicles are purchased from the government by military vehicle collectors, farmers, ranchers, fire departments and rescue organizations for their historical value, their cargo and towing capabilities, and their dual-purpose design for both highway and off-road use.
The amended bill reverses the traditional practice of allowing registration for on-highway use by allowing them to be titled, but also by classifying them as “off-highway vehicles” like ATVs, that cannot be registered for on-highway use.
State motor vehicle statutes prohibit the use of off-highway vehicles on state roads and highways unless the specific road has been designated for off-highway vehicle use.
An inability to register and license these vehicles means that to be used off-highway they would have to be trailered to the off-highway area. Transporting a 5-ton cargo truck or wrecker requires a full-sized tractor-trailer combination.
Two exceptions to the ban on highway use were left in place. The first is that “historical military vehicles…valued for historical purposes” are unaffected by the registration and highway-use ban so long as the vehicle is “maintained in a condition that represents its military design and markings.”
The definition of “valued for historical purposes” is not mentioned, nor is who would make such a determination.
The second is an implied exception for “vehicles designed and used specifically for agricultural, logging, or mining purposes” that appears to allow farmers and ranchers to operate surplus military vehicles on the highways.
Left unanswered is the question of the future status of identical vehicles already titled and registered by the state that have been used on Colorado highways for decades.
An attempt to contact the bill’s primary sponsor was not successful as of press time.