LEGISLATIVE REPORT – GA, AS OF 4 APRIL 2013 Ed McGill, SLO-GA-D7
OVERVIEW: Five bills of interest were introduced during the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly; including one major boating safety bill and one boat registration bill. In addition, legislation creating the Grady County Lake Authority passed in both the House and Senate and sent to Governor Nathan Deal for his signature into law on 1 April 2013.
Two bills failed, including HB 212 that would have imposed additional exhaust muffling and noise levels on watercraft. House Bill 316 also failed – it would have required notification of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Crime Information Center of abandoned vessels under certain circumstances…..both House Bill 212 and 316 will be automatically carried-over to the 2014 Session of the Legislature.
The two major bills that passed in both chambers, and await the Governor’s signature are detailed below:
SENATE BILL 136 (NEW BOATER EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS, BUI, HUI, PENALTIES).
Following several hearings by the newly formed Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GaDNR) supported Senate Bill 136 in the Georgia State Senate. The Bill was co-authored by six State Senators.
The comprehensive, 23 page bill devotes three sections of the act to be cited as the “Kyle Glover Boat Education Law”, with three other sections to be cited as the “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law”. This legislation amended both Titles 27 and 52 of the Georgia Code.
Section 3 addresses hunting under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and lowers the alcohol concentration from 0.10 to 0.08 grams for conviction of HUI, and deals with the details of implied consent laws and state administered chemical tests, etc.
.Section 4 raises the age from 10 to 13 years of age for a child on a moving vessel to wear a PFD while such vessel is underway. The requirement does not apply to a fully enclosed roofed cabin which is already in existing law.
Section 5 adds “toxic vapors” to the list of alcohol or drugs in cases involving personal watercraft violations. The requirement for a child to be at least 16 years of age to operate a PWC is retained, except that the provision allowing “direct supervision” within sight of and within 400 yards of the underage operator is being removed (no longer allowed). Allowing a child 12 – 15 years of age to operate a PWC with completion of a boating education course does not change in this bill. The outright prohibition for a child less than 12 years of age to operate a PWC is preserved.Section 6 clarifies some of the language in addressing age requirements to operate various vessels, but makes no substantive changes in age requirements except the boat-education requirements later addressed in Section 11. This section does add a provision prohibiting the rental of a vessel ten horsepower or more to any person under 16 years of age, and states that “on and after July 1, 2014, a person 16 years of age or older may rent or lease any vessel ten horsepower or more if such person has completed a boating education course approved by the department. This subsection shall not apply to any person licensed by the United States Coast Guard as a master of a vessel or a nonresident who has in his or her possession proof that he or she has completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved boater education course or equivalency examination from another state”.Section 7 deals with night operation of vessels, and adds to the 20 point combination red and green light on the bow “or ten-point combination red and green side lights properly screened and” visible for a distance of one mile……”Section 8 addresses many details of operating, navigating, steering, or driving a vessel, definitions, etc., and in addition to alcohol prohibitions, includes intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapors, and a host of controlled substances, such as marijuana, etc. This section also addresses trials, chemical analysis, chemical tests, and presumptive levels of intoxication. A portion of this section essentially tracks motor vehicle law, and as an example, enters the “presumption” level of intoxication (with other competent evidence) in such cases when the BAC level is 0.05 grams but less than 0.08 grams. Also, motor vehicle laws are mirrored, including differences in conviction of those under 21 years of age @ 0.02 grams and the fact that no plea of nolo contendere can be accepted for persons under 21. Progressive fines and punishments are also detailed in this section.Section 9 addresses the details of ordering drug or alcohol tests, implied consent law, law enforcement officers’ duties, actions and responsibilitiesSection 10 revises the Georgia Code to address terms of suspension of operating privileges, restoration fees, boating education requirements (relating to suspensions), and terms for violations while suspensions are in force, etcSection 11 creates a boater education program requirement in the State of Georgia. Under this legislation, “Effective July 1, 2014, and except as otherwise provided by this chapter, anyone born on or after January 1, 1998, who operates any motorized vessel on the waters of this state shall complete a boating education course approved by the department prior to the operation of such vessel.”The exemptions established for this section include a person:1)Licensed by the United States Coast Guard as a master of a vessel;(2)Operating such vessel on a private lake or pond; or (3)A nonresident who has in his or her possession proof that he or she hascompleted a National Association of State Boat Licensed Administrators approved boater education course or the equivalency from another state”.Sections 12, 13, and 14 deal with penalty violations, and the effective date of the legislation. The statute, if passed in the Senate & House, and signed into law by the Governor, will go into effect on May 15, 2013, except in cases involving convictions or pleas of nolo contendere, such would only begin to be counted on that same date. However, the mandated boat-education requirements (relative to persons born on or after January 1, 1998) will go into effect on July 1, 2014. HOUSE BILL 497 (AMENDMENTS TO GEORGIA BOAT SAFETY ACT)This bill primarily revises provisions regarding the numbering and registration of vessels, application procedures and expiration provisions, etc. House Bill 497 requires that decals issued by the Department of Natural Resources shall be maintained in legible condition. Registration for vessels under this legislation shall expire on the last day of the month of the owner’s birth in the last year of the registration period. It also provides that registrations may be renewed any time after October 1 prior to the year of expiration. If a certificate of number is allowed to expire, a renewal application may still be filed with the Department so long as the applicant pays the registration fee prescribed in the code section along with a $10.00 late fee. When ownership of a numbered vessel changes while a valid registration is in effect, the new owner shall file a new application and pay the prescribed fee for a new registration. The number assigned upon transfer of ownership shall be identical to the previous number unless such number has been reassigned by the Department during any expired registration period. Changes brought about in this legislation (other than effective dates previously noted) will go into effect on 1 July 2013, assuming the Governor signs the bill into law.