Madison Co. residents might not see golf cart legislation in 2021

Madison Co. residents might not see golf cart legislation in 2021
(Source: WAVE 3 News)

MADISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - Neighbors asking for legislation that could help curb underage golf cart driving in unincorporated parts of Madison County could have to wait until next year.

At its meeting Tuesday, the board of supervisors would not vote on a resolution backing golf cart legislation, despite a personal request made by District 73 Rep. Jill Ford.

Residents from several county neighborhoods had petitioned the board to back legislation, as had Ford, who lobbied on behalf of those homeowners.

Board members, though, would not vote on a resolution and an accompanying bill brought forward by board attorney Mike Espy and said they needed more time to review it and to get questions answered.

“We might miss the window of opportunity this legislative session, but there is another one next year,” said Board President Karl Banks.

Ford had hoped to introduce the measure as local and private legislation, which requires the support of a county board of city council to do so.

The deadline to introduce local and private measures will likely be in early March.

Banks and Supervisor Paul Griffin further chided Ford, saying that no one had approached them to discuss the legislation.

“Maybe they’ll show up and talk to the board and show us (why) it’s necessary we move forward,” Griffin said.

In fact, several residents approached the board at its December 21 meeting, including Trey Petro, vice president of the Ashbrooke Owners Association.

Meanwhile, Ford told WLBT she had attempted to contact Griffin twice about the resolution and never had her call returned.

And she went to the board’s January 19 meeting to personally ask for members’ support.

“I wasn’t going to go behind them or around them, and I made that clear when I first spoke,” she said. “I want us to have a good working relationship and (I want) the people at the State House to see that.

“Right now, they don’t see that.”

A draft copy of the legislation would have given Madison County the authority to authorize the operation of golf carts on public roads and streets with a speed limit of 20 miles per hour or less.

The legislation also would have mandated that any person driving a golf cart would have to have a driver’s license or learner’s permit and be accompanied by a licensed driver.

Further, drivers must have proof of insurance, and golf carts must be street legal, meaning they must have brakes, parking brakes, headlights, taillights, turn signals and seat belts.

Espy crafted the draft legislation with the input of Ford, Madison County Sheriff’s Department, the county’s insurance provider and the legislative drafting office.

He said the county must seek permission from the legislature to create the ordinance making golf carts street legal because they are not street legal under state statute.

“This bill made the golf carts street legal and makes sure you have a driver’s license or be in the presence of a licensed driver when driving,” he said.

The bill would have impacted certain residential streets in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Espy said the board had several questions, including how the bill would affect sparsely traveled roads in rural parts of the county, and whether the ordinance would impact cities.

Some municipalities, like Madison, have golf cart ordinances already in place.

He said the measure could be tweaked to address any questions supervisors might have.

Whether or not the bill is introduced during the 2021 session, the sheriff’s department can crack down on unsafe golf cart use under current ordinances.

In August, the sheriff’s department began issuing citations to children’s parents for any underage child driving a golf cart on public streets. They also began issuing tickets to anyone operating golf carts in unsafe manners. Fines start at $250 and go up.

It was not known how many citations had been issued.

The bill proposed by Ford would give the county additional teeth to deal with the problem and could serve as a model bill for other counties.

So far, no counties have had legislation passed to deal with golf carts. However, several cities, including Madison, have.

For Ford, the legislation is all about saving lives.

“You go to Madison County in the springtime and you’re going to see a lot of children driving golf carts,” she said. “The bottom line is somebody’s going to get killed if we don’t eliminate it.”

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