Update on Proposed Boating Legislation

Published on May 11th, 2017

An update to US Sailing members from Bruce J. Burton (President of US Sailing) and Jack Gierhart (CEO of US Sailing) details the status of proposed legislation in Maryland and Florida that could adversely impact the sport.


This is an update sharing the good news regarding Maryland Senate Bill 1147 – State Boat Act and Florida Senate Bill 1242 – Salt Water Boat Act.

Earlier this year, US Sailing received numerous communications from our members and other sailors who were concerned about potential legislation in Maryland and Florida that would negatively impact sailing and boating in those states.

Due to the support and outreach from our members, experts on our government relations committee, other national boating organizations and the broader community of sailing and boating activists, these bills have been nullified and prevented from passing in their current forms. Thank you for sharing your concerns and perspective on these developments.

Regarding Maryland Senate Bill 1147-State Boat Act, James Muldoon, Vice President of US Sailing Government Relations, testified on behalf of US Sailing in opposition of this proposed bill. The bill would prohibit operation of a vessel while a person aboard is riding on, or suspended from, the bow, gunwale or transom of the vessel.

This legislation would have a negative impact on sailing and US Sailing is strongly opposed to any legislation that would limit sailors’ abilities to operate boats in a manner consistent with normal operational methods and practices for any type of sailboats, from sailboards and kites to dinghies, keelboats and multihulls, inshore and offshore.

Testimony from Mr. Muldoon, coupled with outreach from our members, sailors, and other boating organizations all helped stall the bill in the Maryland Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. When the Maryland General Assembly session ended on April 10, the legislation was nullified.

The Florida Senate Bill 1242 – Salt Water Boat Act would have limited the rights of minors to operate small powerboats (10 hp or greater) and sailboats (10’ or longer) in salt water without direct supervision of an adult over the age of 21. This proposed legislation could have damaging effects on youth sailing in one of the most impactful states to the sport of sailing in the US.

Due to extensive feedback from boating experts, combined with strong public support in opposition of this legislation, the bill was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration on Friday, May 5.

Indications are that Maryland Senator James Mathias and Florida Senator Gary Farmer’s offices will both be pursuing alternatives to their respective bills for the 2018 legislative session. The US Sailing Government Relations Committee will continue to actively engage with both Senator’s offices and plan to offer legislative input this summer that protects and serves the interest of the US Sailing membership.

Everyone understands and accepts that safety is the most important consideration in our sport and the well-being of our young sailors is a paramount concern for US Sailing. We understand and support the goals of our government leaders to encourage and promote boating safety. With this, we believe both of these proposed pieces of legislation have been drafted by well-intended state elected officials without complete understanding of our sport and the subsequent impacts on it.

It is very important that all of us help the legislators understand the true factors that provide for a safer boating environment: education, practice, mentoring and experience. These attributes are what develop competency and safe boating practices. Sailing has the strongest safety record in the boating community, and all of us take pride that our sport places safety first.

With this, the US Coast Guard has relied on the sailing community and has designated US Sailing as a leader in facilitating national consensus development of on-water boating education standards, utilizing our education, safety standards and protocols, all of which have been practiced for 50 plus years.

We will keep you updated on our progress in these states, as well as, any new developments on boating legislation that might impact sailors nationwide. Thank you again for your concerns and encouragement.

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