Anti-boating legislation defeated in Florida House

by BoatUS 
. .
Today, after an overnight groundswell of grassroots recreational boater support, the Florida House of Representatives voted down an amendment to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Bill that would have thrown out a statewide effort to develop consistent and rational anchoring options for cruising boaters, and severely impacted anchoring in some of the most important areas along Florida’s coasts.

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), a national boating advocacy group, says the 'Gonzalez Amendment' would have established a dangerous precedent for the rest of the state, lead to a patchwork quilt of anchoring restrictions exposing boaters and legitimate cruisers to citations, and completely ignore an ongoing Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission anchoring pilot program.

Florida Senator Gwen Margolis (Miami Beach) and Representative Eduardo 'Eddy' Gonzalez (Miami Springs) introduced the companion amendments to House Bill 955 – which was unsuccessful today – and Senate Bill 1126 (the Florida Fish and Wildlife Bills), that would have allowed Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to restrict anchoring.

However, while today’s anti-anchoring effort failed in the Florida House, BoatUS is urging caution and continues to monitor the situation closely as the Florida Senate is expected to take up the Senate Bill 1126 next week, potentially leaving open the possibility of the amendment’s reintroduction.

'The amendment was introduced at the 11th hour and over the course of two days we reached out to our members and the boating community in the Sunshine State,' said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. 'This afternoon, the House firmly rejected the Gonzalez Amendment, and we offer our thanks to Florida state Representative Tom Goodson (Titusville), author of the Fish and Wildlife Bills, who urged his colleagues to pass a clean bill without the amendment. While this vote leaves the anti-anchoring amendment’s adoption in question, we are not out of the woods until the session closes in early May.'

The issue first appeared to the public on Monday, April 21, in the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. BoatUS immediately alerted constituents that resulted in the Committee deferring action on Tuesday, the same day when the Gonzalez Amendment was filed in the Florida House of Representatives. On Tuesday night BoatUS alerted its members and the public to have their voice heard on this important issue, and over 2500 filed comments or called their legislators in less than 24 hours.

Podlich also commented, 'Select municipalities should not get special treatment. There is a program in place now to address some of the issues raised, but the amendment’s inclusion in the Fish and Wildlife Bill would jeopardize this significant effort to develop a uniform, transparent and sensible state anchoring policy that doesn’t leave boaters guessing if they are violating the law and are subject to fines or a visit from local law enforcement demanding they move.'