Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-699

Title:

AN ACT ESTABLISHING A MINIMUM AGE FOR TOWING ANY PERSON BY VESSEL AND REQUIRING THE COMPLETION OF A SAFE TOWING COURSE PRIOR TO ENGAGING IN SUCH TOWING BY VESSEL.

Vote Date:

3/20/2015

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/27/2015

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE

REASONS FOR BILL:

To increase boater safety awareness by establishing safe towing-by-boat laws in Connecticut that will apply to the use of a vessel to tow any person, by line, on any apparatus, and to prohibit such towing by any person under the age of eighteen.

Substitute Language: LCO 5634

1. Creates an exemption from safe towing instructions for persons who already possess a safe boating certificate.

2. Requires DEEP to place safe towing instructions on its website.

3. Requires that safe towing instructions now be part of the course for obtaining a safe boating certificate.

4. Establishes an exemption for towing a vessel and/or person in emergency situations.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Robert J. Klee, Commissioner, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

DEEP supports SB 699 to establish “Emily's Law” by creating safe towing boat laws in Connecticut as well as the bill's broader goal of reducing the risk of injury and death attributed to waterskiing and other water sports.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Senator L. Scott Frantz, 36th District, Connecticut.

SB 699 seeks to minimize the possibility of another tragedy similar to that experienced by Emily Fedorko in Long Island Sound in 2014. The bill proposes an additional educational component to the Safe Boating Curriculum that includes an effective section on towing. The bill is a reasonable one and has been vetted with the industry, DEEP. Boaters, the US Power Squadron, professionals in the business, Marine Police and, most importantly, the family.

Representative Fred Camillo, 151st District, Connecticut.

The bill, if passed, will forever be known as “Emily's Law” after a young girl who was tragically killed last summer in a boating accident in Greenwich, CT. The core of the bill has been vetted by boaters, sailors, commodores, and other interested parties and the language reached by consensus. While tragedy cannot be legislated out of existence, Emily's Law will leave a legacy of safety and awareness by lessening the chance of certain types of accidents occurring.

Representative Mike Bocchino, 150th District, Connecticut.

The bill offers a positive and responsible step forward toward establishing safer waterways for all recreational boaters by addressing a specific lack of education for a very popular recreational activity. Importantly, and according to the law enforcement Marine division, the bill does not create any extra burden to those pursuing a watercraft operating license. SB 699 is responsible legislation that deserves bi-partisan support.

Joseph and Pamela Fedorko, Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation.

The best way to honor Emily is to educate as many young people as possible in water sport safety. All members of our family have been exposed to boating at young ages, and all have earned safety certificates, including our daughter Emily. Five weeks before she was tragically killed, Emily took her boating safety course, but there was very little on the topic of towing. Please help us make a difference and pass SB 699 to require better education and training to prevent another tragedy

John Craine, Chairman, Fairfield County Commodores Association.

The association is in full support of the bill and would recommend the following: 1) Specify a distinction between towing/pulling when there is insufficient wind for a sailing regatta. 2) Develop an interactive video model with an on-line version of the safe towing course – a “real” model that would make a significant difference in understanding what actually happens between boats and people.

Susan Ryan, Past District Commander, US Power Squadrons.

Requiring a safe towing course before a boater is able to tow a water-skier or tuber reinforces the importance of a boat operator knowing how to tow safely. The Power Squadron supports this bill because a better educated boater is a safer boater.

W.J. Ian Macmillan, State Harbor Master, Greenwich, CT.

Safe recreational towing requires vigilant visual awareness and constant communication. Hands on training should be considered when dealing with the modern powerful boats used for recreational towing. Turning the motor off when near a person in the water is mandatory if Emily's situation is to be avoided. Quoting Mr. Fedorko – “Stop it 4 Emily”.

Frank B. Kemp, Member of the US Power Squadrons.

This is the right time to raise the standards of boat education, and SB 699 offers Connecticut an opportunity to take back its leadership role in terms of boat safety and education. When it comes to boating, it is still “the wild west” out there, fraught with peril because of the lack of education about boating and general water safety. Those who deliver boating education in the state can easily handle the demands of the step-up educational requirements advanced in this bill.

George Hallenbeck, Member of the US Power Squadrons.

A few years ago the Connecticut Boating Advisory Council (CBAC) and DEEP, understanding the need for additional education beyond the basic standards, created the Coastal Boater Endorsement which recognizes the needs of the Coastal boater vs. the inland boater. Much of what is proposed in Emily's Law is available in the extended course, so a framework already exists to enhance an educational program, making implementation a fairly straightforward thing for DEEP to undertake. Additional consideration could focus on towing, spinning propellers, loading and retrieving.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Henry Moore, Professional Marine Education.

This proposed bill is too broad and an overreaction to an isolated incident. A better alternative to changing the minimum age for boating is to require on-water instruction by an adult for a specified number of hours, perhaps 5, similar to the 40 hours of on road driving to get a driver's license.

Bruce A. Tolhurst, Marlborough, CT.

The current law requiring a 'Safe Boating Certificate' is sufficient to allow the safe operation of watercraft so there is no need to expand the law and further constrain recreational boating. Safe boating principles are better learned from actual operation with adult supervision than from taking a course. The key learning tool is personal responsibility, a lack of which cannot be legislated for compliance. Rather than more limiting legislation, perhaps the safe boating course could be enhanced to include more instruction on safe towing.

Captain Joseph A. Lynch, Safe Boating Instructor.

There are already provisions in the classroom course that address water skiing, tubing, and other forms of recreational towing. This bill merely duplicates what is already in the Safe Boating training. More effective than on-line or in-class education would be actual on-water instruction and testing of skillsets to ensure that the person at the helm understands the dynamics of water skiing and boating before being allowed out on the water.

Cdr. Roger Breunig, AP, USPS-Meriden Squadron.

The need for this legislation makes obvious the Connecticut licensing process flaw which allows any mon/pop outfit to teach water down boating courses. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on this bill, require the mon/pop outfits to get a true boating education from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadron (USPS).

Reported by: Madeline Grabinski

Date: March 27, 2015