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House passes boating safety bill

POSTED: March 21, 2013 12:18 a.m.

The family of 11-year-old Kile Glover, who died in a boating accident last summer on Lake Lanier, watched as the Georgia House of Representatives passed new boating safety regulations Wednesday.

The legislation changes boating under the influence laws to more closely mirror driving under the influence laws, phases in safety education courses and raises the life jacket requirement age to 13 years old from 10. It also raises the age limit to operate some boats and personal watercraft and requires boating education.

The bill goes back to the Senate due to a typo in the Senate-passed bill, but it’s expected to land on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk soon.

Rep. Chad Nimmer, R-Blackshear, sponsored the legislation in the House as one of Deal’s floor leaders. The governor made the boat safety bill part of his agenda for this legislative session.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, initially sponsored the bill and introduced it on the Senate side first. All Hall County representatives voted to approve the bill, but expressed some concern about the hunting section, which lowers the blood alcohol limit to also mirror DUI laws.

Reps. Lee Hawkins and Emory Dunahoo, both R-Gainesville, participated in Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus meetings last year.

“This summer, we focused on lake issues and safety, because at the end of the day, we’ve had too many folks injured and killed on Lake Lanier,” Hawkins said.

He said the hunting section was added later, but he had his questions addressed by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.

“This happens when we’re passing legislation, you have one side disputing the other, but this is such a small point when you look at the whole sphere,” Hawkins said. “And what we’re accomplishing here is safety on the lakes of Georgia.”

Hawkins and Dunahoo said the hunting section may need to be looked at again, but they’re happy with the lake legislation.

The bill, which is split into the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law” and the “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law,” lowers the legal limit of blood alcohol for someone operating a water vessel to .08 grams per 100 grams, or .08 percent, from .10. That’s the same limit for motor vehicle DUI laws and the new hunting regulations. Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13, from Buford, were killed on Lake Lanier after a center console fishing boat rammed into the pontoon boat their family and three other families were riding on last June. The fishing boat operator faces several charges, including homicide by vessel and boating under the influence.

The penalties for violating BUI or HUI laws will also escalate for repeat offenders.

Senate Bill 136 also clarifies the ages, types of boats and watercraft, such as Jet Skis, and conditions that teenagers and children under 12 years old may operate. One condition the new laws would require is a boater safety education class for people born on and after Jan. 1, 1998, and for those who rent personal watercraft.

Nimmer said adding the educational class, which is available for free online on the DNR website, won’t cost boaters, rental businesses, or taxpayers any money. Mandatory education in other states has saved lives, he said.

“And folks, that’s what this bill’s intent is — to reduce the number of fatalities in this state when people take (to) the waterways,” Nimmer said.

Glover, son of entertainer Usher’s ex-wife Tameka Raymond, and Ryan Glover, an executive for Bounce TV, died last July after the tube he was riding on was run over by a personal watercraft. Jeffrey Simon Hubbard of Atlanta has pleaded not guilty to charges including homicide by vessel.

The bill passed by a vote of 146-17.

Miller said he thinks the dissenting votes were related to the hunting section, not boating safety. It’s a good bill that doesn’t burden the public or businesses, he said.

“We should be looking for legislation that’s family-friendly, that’s small-business friendly, that reduces the size of government and increases personal responsibility,” Miller said.


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