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Golf cart situation up in air

August 23, 2011

County Attorney Mark Burry

    The issue of golf carts popped up at Monday's meeting of the Adams County commissioners as they discussed the matter with State Rep. Matt Lehman of Berne.
    Lehman attended the meeting to say that, when the legislature passed a law in 2009 to let cities and towns regulate golf carts, counties were left out of that law, although County Attorney Mark Burry pointed out that the law refers to "local authority," which he says also means counties.
    Adams County's commissioners passed a golf cart regulation ordinance after the state law was approved two years ago and based the provisions on the ordinances passed by the Decatur and Berne city councils and the Monroe and Geneva town councils.
    Lehman said the 2010 and 2011 sessions of the Indiana General Assembly did not get counties added to the 2009 law because of opposition to the idea by a powerful senator: Tom Wyss of Allen County. Lehman said the House of Representatives was ready both years to include counties along with cities and towns in regard to regulating golf carts, but the Senate would not act because of Wyss.
    Now, with the 2012 legislative session just a few months away, Lehman says he and others believe a law will be passed to authorize counties to regulate golf carts, if there are a few modifications to the bill.
    Burry pointed out that that the state attorney-general and the state police hold the opinion that, despite the "local authority" reference, the 2009 law does not let counties regulate golf carts. However, said Burry, those are just opinions, not judicial decisions.
    The county attorney said it is "idiotic" to prevent counties from regulating golf carts at the same time that cities and towns can do so.
    He agreed with Lehman that the 2012 legislature will pass a bill to let counties deal with golf carts, saying, "Honestly, I think it's going to get fixed."
    Decatur City Attorney Tim Baker, who was present at the meeting for another matter, said his view on public policies is that "the best government is the closest to the people," meaning at the local level.
    The commissioners may rescind the golf cart ordinance they passed in 2009 to see how the legislature handles the matter next year. If the discrepancy is corrected, another county golf cart ordinance would be approved, according to views expressed at Monday's meeting.

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