Water safety remains top priority for MN legislative session

The Minnesota House of Representatives Committee on Transportation Finance and Policy convenes Tuesday, March 22, for a hearing on HF3787, legislation which would expand upon the state’s existing youth boater education requirements. The hearing marks the fourth hearing in four weeks’ time for the companion bills SF3392 and HF3787, indicating there is strong support within the legislature for increased boating safety measures for those taking the helm.

Introduced by Senator Carrie Ruud (R-10) and Representative Erin Koegel (D-37A) last month, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) along with key industry stakeholders Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA), Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, Minnesota Coalition of Lakes (MN COLA), Tonka Bay Marina and law enforcement, have been working to ensure passage of these important bills.

Minnesota ranks second in the nation for registered watercraft, seeing an impressive uptick in registration since 2020. During this time, Minnesota has seen registration of 16,000 new motorized watercraft. Despite this favored pastime across the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the state is one of only a handful of states that does not require boater education beyond youth (ages 12-17).

In an op-ed penned by Senator Carrie Ruud, the Senate bill’s author notes the growth of the boating industry and suggests the state expects to see increased sales and boating recreation numbers this year, further stating:

My legislation requires the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources to establish a safety course and testing program for operating watercraft. Minnesota already requires that adults take exams to operate cars, snowmobiles and ATVs. It only makes sense we add a safety course for watercraft. This course would have to be approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and would be available online, ensuring accessibility to everyone.

This legislation will make the boating industry safer and more enjoyable. Many new boat owners just don’t know the rules — they are not necessarily trying to be disrespectful, but their lack of knowledge leads them to boating too fast, creating disturbing wakes or wandering too close to other watercraft and shoreline.

Earlier this month, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee held a hearing on the bill, where it was passed out of committee unanimously and sent to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee which held a hearing last week and laid the bill over for inclusion in the omnibus bill. Additionally, the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committee heard the bill earlier this month and passed it out of committee 18-1, referring it to House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.

The boating industry and key stakeholders will continue to advocate for passage of this bill and work alongside the legislature to ensure the recreational boating community is safe on Minnesota’s waters just ahead of boating season.

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