By Marc Kovac
Lawmakers have sent Gov. John Kasich legislation aimed at stopping unwarranted stops and searches of boaters and their watercraft.
The “Boater Freedom Act” was finalized shortly before the Ohio House and Senate broke for their summer recess late last month, with an emergency clause added, meaning it will take effect as soon as the governor adds his name to it.
He’ll likely do that in coming days. The legislation is one of more than a dozen bills awaiting his signature.
House Bill 29, which passed both chambers on unanimous votes, will prohibit officers from stopping or boarding boats unless the owner or operator requests a safety inspection, there is “reasonable suspicion” that laws have been broken or if the boat is being inspected as part of an authorized checkpoint, according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service commission.
Backers called the bill a “common-sense approach” to the issue.
“Ohio’s boating industry brings in an estimated $3.5 billion to our state’s economy annually, supporting roughly 26,000 full-time jobs,” said Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, during the Senate’s action on the legislation last week.
“It is estimated that one in ever four Ohioans go boating every year.”
She added, “I believe that this bill will help Ohioans stay safe while promoting an extremely vital component of our state’s economy.”
The legislation also will allow individuals who have valid credentials issued by the U.S. Coast Guard to bypass the state’s safe-boater course and examination requirements.