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State Senators Object To Higher Age Limits For Boaters

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - A student-driven proposal that called for increasing the age limit to operate a personal watercraft from 14 to 16 was tabled after hitting rough waters in its first committee appearance in the state Senate.

Members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee criticized the proposal before it was tabled, saying it could hurt tourism and infringe on personal freedom and that the current age limit actually might help keep kids out of trouble.

Sen. Alan Hays pointed to a need for a "dose of reality" for the students.

"While it (the bill) is well-intentioned, the temperament of this committee, certainly this senator that I can speak for, we just don't feel like it's a wise move to make at this time," Hays said.

Sponsor Jeremy Ring of Margate said he would continue to work with the American Water Craft Association, a group that opposes the measure floated by high-school students from lawmaker's Broward district.

"The students came up with this concept because there has been a lot of boating tragedies," Ring said.

Students initially proposed restricting the ages of boat operators. But Ring tried to temper the proposal Wednesday through an amendment that would allow those under 16 to still operate personal watercraft as long as they were accompanied by adults.

The proposal is one of two that have been floated after two Palm Beach County 14-year-olds were lost at sea last summer after driving a boat out the Jupiter Inlet. The other proposal (SB 746 and HB 427) would provide discounts of about 25 percent on annual registration fees if boaters have purchased and registered emergency locator devices.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.


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