Back to the Sep-Oct 2020 issue

Can Cities Regulate the Use of Snowmobiles?

Snowmobile Regulation

Q: With winter on its way, what authority does a city have to place restrictions on the use of snowmobiles within city limits? Also, can a city require a driver’s license to operate a snowmobile?

LMCA snowmobiler on a lake.: While the registration and use of snowmobiles are extensively regulated in state law, cities do have authority to regulate the operation of snowmobiles on public lands, waters, and property within city limits by resolution or ordinance. Additionally, cities may pass an ordinance allowing two-way operation of snowmobiles on either side of the right of way of a street or highway under city jurisdiction. This can be done if the city, as road authority, determines that two-way operation will not endanger users of the street or highway or riders of the snowmobile using the trail.

Regarding whether cities can require those driving snowmobiles to possess a driver’s license while operating a snowmobile, the answer is no. Under state law, a city cannot require that an operator of a snowmobile possess a driver’s license. Additionally, cities are not authorized to license snowmobiles. To learn more about snowmobile regulations, see the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/special-vehicles.

Answered by Research Attorney Jacob Glass: jglass@lmc.org

Employment of veterans

Q: Our city may have to lay off a veteran due to loss of revenue associated with the pandemic. What rights does the veteran have?

LMC: Veterans are not given the same rights in a layoff situation as they are in a termination decision, as loA man using a laptop computer.ng as the layoff is being done in “good faith.” To determine a good-faith layoff, the city needs to ask:

  • Are the job duties eliminated or reassigned?
  • If reassigned, are they assigned to a nonveteran employee who has less seniority than the veteran?
  • Is the position being abolished for a legitimate purpose or as a strategy to terminate
    the veteran?

Unlike other types of terminations of veterans, the city does not need to pay the veteran his or
her regular wages during the 30-day period after the notice of layoff. If the veteran successfully challenges the layoff as not being a good-faith elimination of a position, however, the city runs the risk of an award of back pay.

The city should not expect to rehire for an eliminated position anytime soon, as this action would likely cause suspicion about the city’s motives for reorganization. To learn more about this topic, see the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/vetsdiscipline.

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: lkushner@lmc.org

Waivers and COVID-19

signing a waiver formQ: Our city asks people to sign a waiver when participating in a city program or using a city facility. Should we include specific COVID-19 language in the waiver?

LMC: Waivers are never required, but cities can use them to provide some additional liability protection when people are participating in city programs or using city facilities. While the language in many waivers may be broad enough to cover COVID-19 claims, the League recommends using specific COVID-19 language in light of the current coronavirus pandemic. Waivers must be carefully drafted to avoid being overbroad. Cities cannot require people to waive “any and all claims.” There must be an exception for claims caused by the “willful, wanton, or intentional misconduct” of the city. Adding COVID-19 language can also help the city establish an assumption of risk defense. A sample parks and recreation waiver with COVID-19 language is available at www.lmc.org/waiver-covid.

Answered by Risk Management Attorney Chris Smith: csmith@lmc.org