Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Few Bills to Keep Eye on This Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Few Bills to Keep Eye on This Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Lawrence Dennis, Times-Union boating editor

The Florida Legislature began its 2002 session Jan. 22. While there are no bills in sight that would have major immediate effects on boaters, there are some that if enacted could vastly change the outlook for boating in the state over the long term.

Earlier proposals to increase registration revenues by registering all vessels have apparently been dropped, as has a bill creating a boating specialty auto tag. But other measures, all controversial to some degree, survive.

-- The ones with the greatest long-term effects could be legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) and Rep. Lindsey Harrington (R-Punta Gorda) restricting the latitude of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other state agencies in establishing manatee-protection zones and lowering boat speeds.

-- Others filed by Sen. Ken Pruitt (R-Port St. Lucie) and Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) would remove the current cap on mandatory safety education and expand the present requirement that every operator of a powerboat of 10 hp or greater in Florida born after October 1980, pass a state-approved safe-boating course and carry a state-issued ID card.

-- A bill introduced by Sen. Jim King (R-Jacksonville) would redirect monies collected by the state in fuel taxes at marinas from the Department of Transportation for use in road building to the FWC for -- among other things -- public boating-improvement projects such as ramps, docks and marinas.

The manatee proposals, which are still being hotly debated and are far from their final forms, would basically require the FWC and other state agencies to use scientific evidence and broaden its input-base before mandating speed zones to protect the animals.

Theoretically, the agencies already must do that, but boating, industry and developers groups contend the state arbitrarily restricts boating under

pressure from environmental groups.

The bills would by force of law require state agencies to not only "do their homework," but to accept input from and consult with citizens' groups in communities in which restrictions are being considered. …

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