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#36436 - 01/19/14 10:49 PM Call To Action for the RULWA Vote In Feb !
Trail Ranger Offline
Chairman of The Board

Registered: 07/24/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: Cresson, PA
Got this from the PAOHV ...

Pennsylvania House Delayed RULWA vote in December, To Try Again in February

History and Background

Last month, PaOHV sent alerts asking members to contact their legislators seeking passage of HB 544. Votes were scheduled for December 16 and 18. At the time, the trial lawyers came forward with 17 amendments to the bill that gutted its intent or made RULWA even more advantageous to lawyers by taking way the current liability protection.

The primary advocates for the lawyers are Representatives Longetti (D Mercer Co)., Gibbons (D Lawrence Co)., Neuman (D Washington Co). Since that time Rep. Gary Haluska (D Cambria Co) has added one of his own.

All of these amendments will make it easier to bring a frivolous suit against a land owner. Obviously this is counterproductive to those seeking more recreation opportunities. No significant expansion of trail miles can occur without significant changes to RULWA.

There are 26 members of the coalition in favor of HB 544. Only one-the trial lawyers-are opposed. The coalition of 26 includes Pennsylvania?s two largest industries and every local government organization with the exception of the League of Cities which is neutral.

Enhanced liability protection for landowners is essential to developing trails on private land. No large scale network of trails will be possible without RULWA changes. Furthermore RULWA improvements will make it easier for individuals and clubs to find places on which to engage in OHV activities.

PaOHV needs your immediate action again to ensure passage of HB 544.

Common sense legal reform is the core of this issue. Private land owners must be granted protections from the costs of litigation filed by overreaching lawyers. Until land owners are protected from the cost abusive and baseless lawsuits, there is little or no incentive for landowners to allow the use of private land for any incidental recreational use. To the contrary, the current system promotes a climate of fear and intimidation preventing landowners from utilizing their properties as they desire including loaning it to others for recreational use.

HB 544 provides attorney?s fees for defendant landowners when cases brought against them are found to be baseless and without merit. The legislation creates a firewall for landowners protecting them from enormous costs of opportunistic lawsuits.

This presents the OHV community with an extraordinary opportunity to broaden the scope of protections afforded to landowners.

Action Needed

Contact (call, write or email) your state House member(s). Make your Representative(s) aware that HB 544 will be considered next week and your support of it. Be sure to cite the bill number (HB 544) for easy reference. Your communication should include:

1. Asking your Representative(s) to support HB 544.

2. Explain that the bill seeks fairness by leveling the playing field between landowners and overreaching lawyers. Nothing exists in the bill that would prevent a real suit from moving forward.

3. Ask your Representative vote against any amendments to HB 544. Several amendments have been filed by the Trial Lawyers Association. All weaken the legislation or send RULWA backwards. All amendments must be rejected.

4. Ask your Representative(s) to vote in favor of HB 544 without amendments when it comes to a floor vote.

5. Contact All House Democrats

6. Special attention needs to be devoted to the following Republican House members: Adolph, Barrar, Clymer, Corbin, Cox, Culver, Day, English, Farry, Fee, Hackett, Hickernell, Kampf, Keller F, Killion, Knowles, Krieger, Maher, Marshall, Marsico, Metcalf, Miccarelli, Miccozzie, Mustio, Petri, Quinn, Saccone, Scavello, Stevenson, Toohil, Watson, Harper, DiGirolamo, Hennessey, Miccarelli, Miccozzie, Stephens and Murt.

To keep Pa. recreation safe, lawmakers should support updates to old environmental law: Fred Brown

By Fred Brown

Pennsylvania's Recreational Use of Land and Water Act was passed in 1966 and for the last 47 years has provided "landowners" a limitation on liability if they open their ?land? for recreational use without charge.

The Recreational Use of Land and Water Act of 1966 repealed and replaced a statute that only extended the limitation on liability to woodlands and agricultural lands.

The definition of ?Land? in the current Act means, ?... land, roads, water, water courses, private ways and buildings, structures and machinery or equipment when attached to the realty.?

This definition extended the limitation on liability to the owner of any ?land,? improved or unimproved, regardless of size or location that is free to the public for it?s use. However, the courts over the years have applied their own interpretations to the provisions of the Act.

These interpretations have not always kept to the intent that the authors sought to achieve thereby limiting the protections to ?landowners?.

House Bill 544 introduced by Representative Dan Moul (R) Adams Co., with bi-partisan sponsorship, is intended to restore the Act?s original intent and to update the Act to include certain recreational activities not foreseen at the time the original Act was passed.

The bill includes amenities, under the definition of ?land,? needed by individuals with disabilities so they will have better access and opportunity to enjoy recreation. House Bill 544 clarifies that ?land? can be improved or unimproved, rural or urban of any size and for any use.

The bill also addresses the two biggest concerns expressed by ?landowners? the fear of being sued and the costs associated with being sued by providing for the recovery of attorney fees, if found not to be responsible for the accident or injury of the recreational user. Similar provisions exist in the Recreational Use statutes in the states of Maine and New Hampshire.

Opponents of House Bill 544, Representatives Longetti (D) Mercer Co., Gibbons (D) Lawrence Co., Neuman (D) Washington Co., and Haluska (D) Cambria Co. have drafted a total of 18 amendments that would have, if passed, eviscerate the bill and render the current Act virtually useless.

As an example Representative Neuman?s amendments would eliminate the limitation on liability if the recreational user is under 18, over 65 or if the recreational user has a physical or intellectual disability or a mental health condition. For the last 47 years the limitation on liability has been uniformly applied to all recreational users.

I caution that if all legislators vote to support the amendments, I believe it won?t be long before they realize their efforts will prove to be among the worst decisions ever for the future of recreation in Pennsylvania.

The Longetti, Haluska and Gibbons amendments pick away at different provisions being proposed in House Bill 544, while a few take a wholesale swipe at gutting many of the provisions being proposed. Gibbons amendment would eliminate the Act?s protection for local governments further exposing them/us to increased liability and costs of frivolous suits.

The net effect of these amendments would be to reverse 47 years of success in providing greater access to recreation of all types on public and in particular private ?land.? The efforts of Representatives Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman would create such a extraordinary disincentive to any landowner, public or private, for allowing access to their land for any reason. Leading, I would argue, to closures and postings of many recreational venues currently available.

These amendments must be withdrawn or defeated, when considered by the Legislature. Instead of protecting recreational users, these amendments would eventually result in fewer, if any, lands open free to the public.

It is unfathomable that anyone would propose what these three legislators have proposed in terms of amendments to House Bill 544. If they don?t like the bill I would just urge them to vote no.

As of this writing 26 organizations comprised of state government agencies, recreational user groups, local government associations and recreational businesses support House Bill 544. Only one opposes it, Trial Lawyers.

I caution that if all legislators vote to support the amendments, I believe it won?t be long before they realize their efforts will prove to be among the worst decisions ever for the future of recreation in Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, if you want to see more recreational venues for all manner of recreation, then vote to oppose the Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman amendments and vote in support of House Bill 544.

If you want to provide additional incentives for ?Landowners? to provide access for individuals with disabilities then vote to oppose the Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman amendments and vote in support of House Bill 544.

If you want to support responsible recreational use and help to take the pressure off of public lands then vote to oppose the Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman amendments and vote in support of House Bill 544.

#36453 - 01/22/14 11:16 AM Re: Call To Action for the RULWA Vote In Feb ! [Re: Trail Ranger]
dirtfan07 Offline

Registered: 10/19/12
Posts: 297
Loc: NE Pennsylvania
I know this is gonna sound st^pid but it might help if you posted names, emails, and phone #'s for people to contact?
Proud 4th generation military. Thank you to all who have served

I've earned the names "Treefan" and "Deerfan"...

#36461 - 01/22/14 06:03 PM Re: Call To Action for the RULWA Vote In Feb ! [Re: Trail Ranger]
mikeexplorer Offline

Registered: 10/28/10
Posts: 672
Loc: Northeast, PA
Not stupid at all, but you can find your Representative and email them. I already did that and will do again when this bill comes up again.
Damn money grubbing lawyers and their amendments!

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