N.C. lawmakers may overturn boat bill veto

RALIEGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s state legislature has been called to Raleigh for a session Wednesday to vote on whether to override Gov. Mike Easley’s veto of a bill that would ease rules on transporting boats on state roads, The News & Observer reported in a story this morning.

The bill allows boats and boat trailers between 8 1/2 feet and 10 feet wide to travel on state roads without a special permit and flags, as currently required. The bill would also relax other restrictions, such as allowing wide boat traffic at night, the newspaper reported.

Easley said the legislation created a safety hazard. Coastal legislators said current restrictions harm commercial and recreational fishing, according to The News & Observer.

"He's damaging our economy for no good reason," Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight said last week.

State troopers investigated 300 wrecks last year involving drivers transporting boats and issued five tickets for boats that were beyond the allowed width.

Those numbers are being highlighted by both sides in the debate.

Easley and the state Highway Patrol say it proves they are neither targeting boaters nor hurting the fishing and tourism industries.

"We can't find a boat builder who thinks it's a problem," Easley said Monday.

The bill's supporters say the numbers prove wide boats aren't a problem and challenged Easley's warnings about a yacht hitting a school bus on a narrow road.

"The Governor's veto message is filled with misinformation, and/or incorrect information," legislative staffers wrote in a memo to lawmakers. "Boats greater than 8.5 feet can use any road today from dawn to dusk on weekdays (school days). Therefore, these boats are currently using these same routes with these same school buses passing over these same narrow bridges every day. The veto of this bill will not change that fact."

For the bill to become law without Easley's signature, three-fifths of the lawmakers must vote to override.

"There is overwhelming support for an override," Bill Holmes, spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney, told The News & Observer.

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