Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Boater Freedom Act (House Bill 29), sponsored by Rep. Rex Damschroder (R-88th District) and co-sponsored by Rep. Terry Johnson (R-90th District).
According to the House, “the bill specifies that the state’s law enforcement personnel may only stop a vessel if they have reasonable suspicion that the vessel or vessel’s operator are in violation of marine law or otherwise engaged in criminal activity. Currently, a boater on the Ohio River may be stopped by a state watercraft officer, Kentucky law enforcement agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, local marine patrol, or the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct a safety check, sometimes multiple times in one day.”
Johnson said the problem has gotten out of hand, and he is thrilled to see the bill pass.
“I have heard from numerous constituents who complain that they can’t even enjoy a day out on their boat anymore without being stopped for arbitrary boat searches by every law enforcement agency under the sun. This bill aims to treat your boat like your car and clarify that law enforcement cannot stop you without reasonable cause,” he said.
Johnson said he wants to see tourism boosted in southern Ohio, and that can’t be done by “scaring off boaters and trivializing one of our region’s greatest assets — the Ohio River”
Ohio’s boating industry contributes an estimated $3.5 billion to Ohio’s state economy annually and supports as many as 26,000 full-time jobs. Approximately 3 million Ohioans participate in boating-related activities each year.
House Bill 29 will be sent to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTWriter.