TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Sometimes it’s the middle of night, and often it’s only at the very last moment. But that’s the nature of how new legislation is often introduced with the backing of special interest groups in state houses across the U.S. Often the intent is to keep the public in the dark. But that’s not what happened over the last two weeks in Florida, when Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) became instrumental in turning the tide on some 11th-hour legislation that would have thrown out a statewide effort to develop consistent and rational anchoring options for cruising boaters, and severely impacted anchoring in some of the most important areas along Florida’s coasts.
With official end of Florida’s 2014 legislative session today, BoatUS says that the series of anti-anchoring legislative amendments are no longer a current threat. Attempts were made to add these amendments to the Florida Fish and Wildlife bills in both Senate and House, and would have established a dangerous precedent for the rest of the state, lead to a patchwork quilt of anchoring restrictions and exposed boaters and legitimate cruisers to citations and fines. It would have also completely ignored an ongoing Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission anchoring pilot program whose goal is provide a more uniform and fair anchoring regulations statewide.
BoatUS, with a groundswell of boater support generated over 5,800 comments to legislators, urged the Senate and House to defeat the amendments’ passage. The Fish and Wildlife bills have now passed “clean” with no anti-anchoring amendments.
“Our Florida members answered our call to weigh in and let legislators know the impact of the proposed legislative changes,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Coordinator David Kennedy. “Florida legislators responded and soundly defeated the proposals. BoatUS thanks both Representative Tom Goodson and Senator Charlie Dean for their tireless efforts on behalf of Florida boaters,” Kennedy concluded.
Florida Senator and Senate Minority Leader, Christopher L. Smith (Fort Lauderdale) and Representative Eduardo “Eddy” Gonzalez (Miami Springs) introduced amendments to House Bill 955 and Senate Bill 1126 (the Florida Fish and Wildlife agency bills), that would have given counties unfettered control over the restriction of anchoring throughout their jurisdictions.
However, the boating advocacy and services group says Florida boaters and cruisers need to remain vigilant. “BoatUS is on watch,” said Kennedy, “And working with Sunshine state boaters, we can be effective when others decide to try to negatively impact our boating. But we know from experience that this will happen again—it’s just a question of time and in which statehouse will someone else decide boaters don’t matter.”