Proposed legislation is approved in committee, setting the stage for bill to be considered by full upper chamber roster.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A federal bill aiming to improve the safety of those who spend time on the water has cleared its first hurdle. The U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved Senate Bill 2297 (S. 2297), also known as the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2019, in late July.
The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act would affect recreational boaters, should the proposal clear both houses of Congress and ultimately become signed into law.
One provision of S. 2297 calls for boats measuring 26 feet in length or smaller to have its operators maintain an engine cut-off switch once the vessel is operational and navigating. The mandate follows-up on another federal provision requiring manufacturers install the cut-off device on boats of 26 feet and smaller.
S. 2297 would also grant the Coast Guard “equivalency” authority. Such authority, according to a statement released by the National Marine Merchants Association (NMMA), would allow the Coast Guard “to streamline approval of the recreational boating industry construction standards and new technology, while maintaining the highest level of safety.”
The federal legislation would also address Coast Guard funding whenever a government shutdown is in effect.
“Currently, the Coast Guard is the only branch of the Armed Services that has a lapse in appropriations during a government shutdown, but this legislation would ensure that members of the Coast Guard continue to receive a paycheck should the government shutdown again,” NMMA staff said in a released statement.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act a few weeks ago. Sections of the bill focus on vessel safety standards, Coast Guard personnel management, support of women serving in the military agency, research projects, support of educational initiatives, port/harbor/coastal security, charting and reporting protocols.
S. 2297, if approved and signed into law, would also authorize an increase of appropriations for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years by as much as $1.4 billion.
Also proposed in S. 2297:
- Coast Guard must procure at least three heavy and three medium polar cutters (ice breakers)
- $650 million for construction of a National Security cutter
- Streamline maintenance and repair of Coast Guard vessels in Alaska
- Provide regulation certainty for commercial fishing vessels, as it relates to onerous or unenforced regulation
- Expand use of unmanned aircraft systems, particularly in the Arctic, and
- Improve personnel relations, specifically with respect to protections for survivors of sexual assault, recruitment and retention of women and services offered to family members of Coast Guard members.
The entire U.S. Senate is now considering the bill. The Log will report on the bill’s fate once a full vote is lodged.