As the weather warms and boating season nears in the Great Lakes region, Minnesota lawmakers are inching closer to officially expanding boater education to include adult operators. Last Thursday the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its omnibus environment and natural resources bill, HF4492/SF4062. The bill will return to the Senate, where a conference committee is expected to work out the differences before the end of May when session adjourns.
The House omnibus bill included the boater education expansion language from HF3787, which has been widely supported. The language would expand the state’s existing youth operator requirements to establish a requirement on all operators born on or after July 1, 1987 – eventually phasing in all boaters. If passed, the law will go into effect the summer of 2024.
Minnesota has the second-most registered boats in the U.S., with nearly one boat for every six people, though the state does not currently require any training or safety education for boaters beyond age 17. This legislation offers an opportunity for lawmakers to implement a much-needed and widely supported boater-education program, ensuring that operators are safe on the water and the best stewards of this natural resource.
The recreational boating industry, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA) have partnered with Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations (MN COLA), law enforcement and resorts to push this legislation forward.