Will state legislators revisit proposals to ban drinking while boating?
STATEWIDE — Comments and complaints of California’s regulatory procedures – and their respective effects on consumers – are a dime a dozen. Many laws created in the name of safety are interpreted as veiled attempts of state legislators and bureaucrats to collect as much money from its citizenry as possible. Perhaps a recent attempt to further legislate boating under the influence, or BUI, activities could be interpreted as state lawmakers potentially doing too much in the name of safety and public policy.
A state senator from the San Francisco Bay Area targeted drinking activities aboard boats in a bill proposal earlier this year. The bill – Senate Bill 65, or SB 65 – would aim to prohibit any drinking of alcoholic beverages while operating boat or sitting aboard as a passenger. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, removed BUI provisions from SB 65 in late March.
Boaters would have faced additional restrictions on drinking activities aboard their vessels had SB 65’s original BUI provisions remained in the proposal and ultimately signed into law. California’s Harbor and Navigation Code (section 655) already prohibits the operation of a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs; SB 65 would have extended BUI prohibitions into the state’s Vehicle Code.
The original version of SB 65 also proposed to prohibit marijuana use during operation of a boat or vessel.
Hill, on March 28, updated SB 65 to focus specifically on regulating marijuana use and vehicle operation. Groups such as the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) expressed relief when Hill removed the BUI provisions from his proposed legislation.
Boating advocates certainly view the revised version of SB 65 as a victory for recreational boaters.
An RBOC blog stated the removal of BUI provisions from SB 65 allows sensible regulations already on the books to remain in place.
“This provision [SB 65] would have been in addition to the significant BUI laws set forth in the Harbors and Navigation Code,” the RBOC blog post stated. “The current, extensive provisions of these state laws aim to strike an effective balance that prevents boating under the influence, effectively enforces the extensive state BUI laws, and acknowledges the boating experience.”
The prospects of added BUI regulation is off the table this year and California’s next legislative session is at about seven months away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about what might happen in 2018 (or beyond).
Current law already prohibits the operation a boat or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Of course the boater education card will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2018, meaning state law enforcement could be more active, as it were, in monitoring day-to-day boating activities.
Will state legislators try to address alcohol and/or drug use on boats in the future? Well nothing is stopping a state senator or assembly member from introducing something on Capitol Hill. Marijuana-themed proposals could be in store down the line as the state’s “green” policies are still evolving. Boaters should ultimately be as active as possible in monitoring future proposals on boating activities with safety or substance use themes.