Gov. Signs Bill to Save Boating Commission

Byline: Taylor Hill

Gov. Signs Bill to Save Boating Commission

SACRAMENTO — In the wake of Gov. Jerry Brown’s reorganization plan (GRP #2) eliminating the California Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) and turning it into a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation, the governor signed Assembly Bill 737 (AB 737) into law July 5, preserving at least some of the functions of the soon-to-disappear Boating and Waterways Commission.

The bill, authored by California Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon), will preserve the Boating and Waterways Commission — Cal Boating’s advisory group — in the newly reorganized division. Under Gov. Brown’s reorganization plan, which was developed to eliminate redundancies and create efficiencies between government agencies, the commission was slated to be eliminated; but AB 737 will reverse the plan.

In addition, AB 737 states that the nine-member Parks and Recreation Commission — tasked with providing administration and direction on California parks matters — will now include one member affiliated with recreational boating to represent California boaters.

The bill will be put into action July 1, 2013 — when GRP #2 becomes effective and Cal Boating becomes a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to Cleve Hardaker, president of the boating advocacy group Recreational Boaters of California, the signing of the bill is a step in the right direction for the state, following the disappointing merger of Cal Boating into the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We will remain engaged and vigilant as these changes are implemented over the course of the next 12 months, and additional legislation may be warranted,” Hardaker said. “It remains critical that boaters have confidence that the funds we pay the state are used wisely and effectively.”

While the bill will keep the Boating and Waterways Commission intact, exactly how it will do that remains to be seen. Clarifications are expected on whether the current Boating and Waterways Commissioners will be kept on following next year’s merger, or if Gov. Brown will appoint a new set of commissioners.

The powers of the commission are also set to change, with the current seven-member body having the power to advise the Department of Boating and Waterways on all matters within its jurisdiction, and issue consent decisions on the department’s boating facilities loans and grants.

Under the new law, commissioners will no longer have consent authority on where boat loans and grants are distributed. Instead, they will only comment and give advice to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which will take over the advisory role on boating matters.

With the new bill retaining the Boating and Waterways Commission, albeit with lesser decision-making power, the aim of the new legislation is to continue to give boaters an outlet to voice opinions and concerns at scheduled public meetings. Through the commission, boaters will have an opportunity to see how boater-generated funds are being used and allocated toward boating facilities, boating safety and other uses.

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