Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami) and Representative Adam Botana (R-Bonita Springs) have filed legislation, Senate Bill 606 and House Bill 493, both titled Boating Safety and referenced as the Boating Safety Act of 2022. The legislation aims to provide a comprehensive approach to improve safety along Florida’s waterways for residents and visitors while curbing illegal rental operations, on the rise since before the on-set of COVID-19, that have contributed to injuries and deaths, increases in criminal activity and deterioration of natural resources. Senator Garcia is scheduled to present SB 606 to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, at 9 a.m.
“The Boating Safety Act of 2022 protects Floridians and visitors, our marine life and natural resources by addressing the harmful actions of bad actors while ensuring an uninterrupted use of our waterways by responsible enthusiasts and supporting boater education,” said Senator Garcia. “Equipping the public with the knowledge they need to change their boating habits will have lasting impacts and benefit our waterways for generations to come.”
To address illegitimate livery operations (boat or personal watercraft rental facilities), the Boating Safety Act of 2022 establishes a no-cost permitting program through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which will adopt rules for program implementation, permitting issuance and renewal, and notification requirements for changes to rules or requirements. Liveries will also be required to implement written agreements for vessel rentals for at least one year, and to make documentation and facilities available to law enforcement within 24 hours of notification.
“My family has been in the boating and livery business for over 15 years now and I feel this bill is common sense. This will help FWC combat bad actors across the state of Florida. It does not impede any business and is a good bill – that’s why I’m honored to run it,” said Representative Botana.
Careless vessel operation, which is routinely cited as a major issue by law enforcement and residents in South Florida and attributed as the primary cause of the majority of accidents and fatalities per the FWC’s 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report, will be better addressed by requiring liveries to provide customers with instructions on the safe operation of a livery vessel.
The Boating Safety Act of 2022 establishes a program through the FWC to ensure increased compliance with mandatory boater safety education requirements by tracking citations and sending notices of said education requirements. The bill also requires a physical residential or business address for vessel registration, with an exception for live-aboard vessels, and creates an Illegal Boating Strike Team to enhance and support existing law enforcement activities throughout Florida.
Existing penalties for boating under the influence, operating with an expired registration, violating navigational rules, scarring seagrass, violating regulations in a springs protected zone or anchor limitation area, anchoring or mooring in a prohibited area, and creating a special hazard with one’s vessel will be increased. The default noncriminal penalty for boating violations will increase from $50 to $100, unless otherwise provided for in 327.73(1), F.S.
Additional Background and Information:
Senator Garcia continuously seeks the involvement of not just her own community but the statewide recreational boating and water enthusiast communities to provide their insights and input for long-term and effective solutions that reward those who work to create a safe and enjoyable boating environment while addressing bad actors.
Senator Garcia has been actively collaborating with the Miami River Commission and received assistance from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce to seek public commentary and input from the South Florida boating and water enthusiast community as well as residents and businesses impacted by the criminal activity due to increasing illegal vessel charter operations.
Senator Garcia has met with the City of Miami Marine Patrol Detail, the Miami-Dade Marine Patrol, the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami. Senator Garcia also participated in ride-a-longs to gain firsthand experience of the situation law enforcement, the U.S. military, Floridians and visitors face in South Florida waters.
Senator Garcia met with the representatives of the Captains for Clean Waters and the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS) to discuss best practices for maintaining the safe and enjoyable boating environment that attracts visitors from across the world and supports many Florida businesses.
Senator Garcia welcomes the input of individuals and business impacted by increasing criminal activity due to illegal livery operations and interested boating and water enthusiasts. If you have comments regarding these issues, please contact her office using the “Email this Senator” option on her webpage, www.FLSenate.gov/Senators/S37.
For more information, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.