Opinion

March 26, 2013

Legislative update: Bills to increase water safety, foster musicians

Last week committees continued to review legislation passed by the state Senate, and several bills made their way out of committee to receive a vote from the entire House of Representatives. Thursday will be our 40th day. Before midnight, the gavel will fall with Sine Die and the 2013 legislative session will be complete. We will send a balanced budget to the governor and legislation aimed at making Georgia a safer and better place to live.

One of the bills passed this week, Senate Bill 136, improves safety at Georgia’s lakes, rivers and other waterways that are used for recreational purposes. As Georgia’s population has increased over the years, so too has the number of boating and jet ski accidents that occur each year in the state. Just last summer, three young boys died in accidents on Lake Lanier. Kile Glover was struck by a jet ski on Lake Lanier, and brothers Jake and Griffin Prince were killed after an intoxicated boater collided with their family’s pontoon boat on Lake Lanier. This week, we passed Senate Bill 136, otherwise known as the Kile Glover Boat Education Law and Jake and Griffin BUI Law, in hopes of preventing similar accidents.

To decrease the number of boating tragedies in Georgia, SB 136 would lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from 0.10 to 0.08 for boating under the influence (BUI). This change will create uniformity in Georgia law by bring the state’s legal BAC limit for BUIs and hunting under the influence (HUI) — both of which are currently 0.10 — into compliance with its driving under the influence BAC limit of 0.08. Georgia is currently one of only eight states that allows a higher BAC limit for boating under the influence than driving under the influence. This inconsistency has led to dangerous conditions on Georgia’s waterways, which grow more crowded each year. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard estimates that alcohol is a contributing factor in over half of the boating fatalities each year. By lowering the BAC limit for BUIs and increasing BUI penalties so that they mirror DUI penalties, we can help save lives.

SB 136 would also enact other boating safety regulations aimed at increasing safety on Georgia’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters. The bill states that children between the ages of 12 and 15 may not operate a boat larger than 16 feet in length, but may drive smaller personal water craft if accompanied by an adult or if the child has successfully completed a boating education course approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Children under 12 may operate a boat or other personal water craft only if it has a motor with less than 30 horse power, and is smaller than 16 feet in length. SB 136 would also require anyone under the age of 15, as well as anyone renting a boat or personal water craft with more than 10 horsepower, to watch a free 12-minute boater safety video offered on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ website. In addition, SB 136 would raise the age from 10 to 12 for children that are required to wear life jackets while a boat or personal watercraft is in motion. Finally, SB 136 would update the regulations for navigation lights to meet current industry standards, and allow navigation lights to be placed on the sides of boats. It is our hope that these changes will help ensure that generations of Georgians and visitors alike can continue to safely use our state’s water resources for recreation.

This week we also passed House Resolution 529, which will create the Georgia Music Industry Study Committee. Many successful artists have started in Georgia, including James Brown, REM, the B-52s, Third Day, Zach Brown, Drivin’ N Cryin’, Delta Moon, Luke Bryan and Lady Antebellum. Unfortunately, most of Georgia’s musical talent leaves the state to produce their music. The Georgia Music Industry Study Committee will look for ways that we can help encourage these talented musicians to stay in Georgia. The committee will research the entertainment programs and infrastructures of other states, study the issues facing Georgia’s music industry, and explore strategies that will ensure growth in the state’s existing music industry. HR 529 recognizes our Georgia artists for the economic value they bring to our communities, and seeks to inspire others to take advantage of the many opportunities the Georgia music industry has to offer. We continue to search for ways to foster and encourage the music and film industries to make Georgia their home.

Please call us if you have any questions or comments about legislation being considered in the General Assembly. You can reach us at our capitol offices: Rep. Tom Dickson at (404) 463-2247 or by email to Tom.Dickson@house. ga.gov; Rep. Bruce Broadrick at (404) 656-0202 or by email to Bruce.Broadrick@house.ga.gov.

Thank you for allowing us to serve as your representatives.

 

Bruce Broadrick and Tom Dickson

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