On May 3, 2012, the governors of Minnesota and Vermont signed bills adding aviation to their respective state recreational use statutes (RUS). These states become the 15th and 16th states to do so.
In Minnesota, Jim Hanson worked hard and long to get a bill sponsored in the House by Representative David Hancock. The bill then took the most convoluted course of any RUS bill yet. Jim stuck to the process like a bug on a windscreen. Jim’s story is as inspiration to keep on plugging even when all seems lost. To make a very long story short, near the very end of the legislative session it appeared that the bill would die in the committee. At the eleventh hour Representative Hancock and Senate Sponsor John Carlson were able to get the original RUS bill attached to an Omnibus Game and Fish bill which was passed and signed into law. This adds “noncommercial aviation” to the Minnesota Recreational Use Statute and is an important first step in opening access to private use airstrips in Minnesota.
In Vermont, our RAF Liaison Bob Burley ran the operation. Bob seems to knows a few “people in high places,” and expertly worked his magic to convince important folks in the legislature that passage of this amendment to the state RUS was absolutely necessary for Vermont. Representative Peter Peltz and Senator Richard Westman sponsored the bill, while Representative Victoria Strong and Senator Diane Snelling presented it in their respective chambers. The bill adds “noncommercial aviation” to the Vermont RUS. Bob adds that “Governor Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shapleigh Smith … ensured that the stars and planets aligned at the right times. In typical RAF fashion, the Vermont RUS bill was flown around the storms of other raging legislative controversies, not unlike our own en route diversions to get to our favorite back country trout streams.”
These bills help to address the liability concerns of those private-use airport owners who would like to allow others to use their airstrips. Recreational use statutes provide a degree of liability protection to landowners who allow others to use their land for all sorts of recreation. The intent of these bills is to clearly include “aviation” as one of these listed recreational activities. RAF has a goal to amend the RUS of all 50 states to include aviation.
The RAF has been actively guiding state leaders who want to see such legislation passed. We gain more wisdom with each state effort, and pass that knowledge onto the next state leader who picks up the baton. If you would like to lead the effort for your state, please contact the RAF and we will provide you with the guidance and support needed to accomplish this important goal.
Submitted May 8, 2012.