State Representative Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont) today applauded the Ohio House of Representatives’ passage of House Bill 29, also known as the “Boater Freedom Act,” which establishes conditions for watercraft safety inspections.

House Bill 29 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 Lake Erie may be stopped by a state watercraft officer, local marine patrol, or the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct a safety check, sometimes multiple times in one day.

“Ohio boaters are often subjected to random stops and searches by law enforcement, which my constituents have expressed is an intrusive and time-consuming burden,” said Rep. Damschroder. “House Bill 29 is a common-sense approach because it eliminates these intrusive searches and will reduce the numerous searches that boaters are subjected to without probable cause of suspicion.”

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—nearly one in four—participate in boating-related activities each year. In addition, the seven Ohio counties that border Lake Erie experienced an $11 billion investment in tourism in 2011, with more than 117,000 jobs and $3 billion in employee wages.

Rep. Damschroder expressed that because the boating and tourism industries are a major part of Ohio’s economy, ensuring that Ohio’s boaters are given equal treatment as those who operate motor vehicles is vital to maintaining a thriving economy.

“Recreational and commercial boating are vital to Ohio’s success as a state, and we need to preserve the stability and prosperity of our marine-related economy, from marinas and boat dealers, to fishing charters and the various registration fees and fuel taxes that contribute to Ohio’s economy,” said Rep. Damschroder. “As a boater myself, I understand what a deterrent these excessive boardings have become in our waterways and all along our Lake Erie coast. I am proud to sponsor this legislation that addresses this issue while preserving the safety of our waterways.”

House Bill 29 passed with unanimous support and will be sent to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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