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Hearing Monday to discuss proposed new boating rules

1 year ago Jason Nevel, The State Journal-Register

Lumping vehicle and boating DUIs together is among three pieces of legislation

From Jason Nevel, The State Journal-Register:

Proposed tougher watercraft regulations that brought hundreds to a hearing in the Chicago area two months ago aren’t making many waves in Springfield.

Lumping vehicle and boating DUIs together is among three pieces of legislation to be discussed at 2 p.m. Monday in a committee hearing at the Capitol being headed by state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield.

An impaired boater struck and killed Morrison’s 10-year-old nephew, Tony Borcia of Libertyville, while he was tubing with his family on the Chain O’ Lakes in 2012.

Fourteen other states have laws stating a boating under the influence conviction will affect the offender’s driving privileges, according to the Boating Safety Resource Center.

The three pieces of legislation include:

* SB 1477: Anyone convicted of operating a watercraft under the influence would have their driving privileges on land suspended for three months.

* SB 1478: Residents born on or after Jan. 1, 1990, would be prohibited from operating a watercraft without a valid boat safety certificate from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

* SB 1805: Operators of a watercraft towing a person behind a boat would be required to display an orange flag (already a rule on Lake Springfield).

As of this week, only a handful of people had signed up to testify or submit witness slips indicating support or opposition. More than 200 people submitted witness slips for the hearing in August in Libertyville, according to Morrison’s office. 

Boaters up north formed a Facebook group called Boaters United in response to the legislative proposals. The group opposes the increased government intervention.

Both Steve Koch and Kim Curry of the Springfield Lake Shore Improvement Association said they would welcome legislation making the waterways safer for boaters.

Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards, who lives on Lake Springfield, said he hadn’t heard of any concerns being raised locally about the proposed legislation.

In recent years, Edwards said police, lake homeowners and City, Water, Light and Power reigned in the level of partying on the lake.

“It was kind of like the wild west out there,” Edwards said of Lake Springfield in the early to mid-2000s. “We all kind of worked together, and we don’t have those problems anymore.”

Springfield police records indicate just one person was cited this boating season for operating a watercraft under the influence. Eight tickets have been issued since 2011.

John Shea, lake patrol coordinator with the Springfield Police Department, said authorities no longer have issues at Party Cove, now located at Cotton Hill Park.

Shea said anytime somebody gets overly rowdy, other boaters call police and point the individual out to authorities.

“They regulate their own because they don’t want us over there as much,” Shea said.

The hearing is in room 409 at the Capitol.

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