The Ohio House of Representatives today concurred on Senate changes to House Bill 29, also known as the “Boater Freedom Act,” which establishes conditions for watercraft safety inspections.
House Bill 29 specifies that the state’s law enforcement personnel may only stop a vessel if they have reasonable suspicion that the vessel or vessel’s operator are in violation of marine law or otherwise engaged in criminal activity. Currently, a boater on Lake Erie may be stopped by a state watercraft officer, local marine patrol, or the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct a safety check, sometimes multiple times in one day.
“House Bill 29 eliminates these intrusive boat searches in the state of Ohio,” said State Rep. Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont). “With the governor’s signature, House Bill 29 will become law in time to effect the remainder of this summer’s boating season This is a common sense approach to the issue as we have seen these random and arbitrary stops become far too common.”
Ohio’s boating industry contributes an estimated $3.5 billion to Ohio’s state economy annually and supports as many as 26,000 full-time jobs. Approximately 3 million Ohioans—nearly one in four—participate in boating-related activities each year. In addition, the seven Ohio counties that border Lake Erie experienced an $11 billion investment in tourism in 2011, with more than 117,000 jobs and $3 billion in employee wages.
House Bill 29 now awaits Governor Kasich’s signature.