Lexington, SC - 02/02/2021 (Paul Kirby) – On Thursday, January 28, 2021, Senate Bill S 497 was introduced and read into the record. It was then referred to the Senate Committee on Fish, Game and Forestry. The bill is similar to the House Bill 3103 with only some minor changes. The Senate Bill’s primary sponsor is Chip Campsen, Chairman of the Fish, Game and Forestry.
Lexington County residents Randall and Karen Smith will address the Senate Subcommittee on S 497. They will do so on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. That hearing will be held in Room 308, of the Gressette Building.
Randall and Karen’s son Drew died on the waters of Lake Murray in the early morning hours of July 19, 1997. While night fishing with his son, the boat Randall was piloting was run over by an impaired boater and Drew was killed. He was 11 years old. In an effort to save others, the Smiths lobbied the state legislators to strengthen the boating laws. They were successful and the Boating Safety Act of 1999, or more commonly known as ‘’Drew’s Law,” was passed.
Still, there is more work to be done.
SC’s current law states:
In South Carolina, boaters 16 years of age and older may operate any recreational boat or PWC without restrictions. However, persons under the age of 16 must complete a boating course approved by the SCDNR in order to operate a motorboat or PWC with a 15-horsepower motor or greater.
The two bills now being considered would change that.
House Bill 3103 would stipulate:
No person born after June 30, 2006, may operate a personal watercraft, specialty propcraft, or vessel equipped with a greater than fifteen horsepower engine upon the waters of this state unless the person completes a boating safety and education program administered or approved by the Department of Natural Resources…
Senate Bill S 497 would stipulate:
It is unlawful for a person to operate upon the waters of this State a vessel powered by an engine of ten horsepower or greater, a personal watercraft, or a specialty propcraft without having possession of a South Carolina boating safety certificate issued by the department in the person's name, unless the person:..
(1) was born on or before July 1, 2006;
(2) is in possession of a license to operate a vessel issued by the United States Coast Guard in the person's name, regardless of the expiration date on the license;
(3) is in possession of a merchant mariner credential issued by the United States Coast Guard in the person's name, regardless of the expiration date on the credential;
(4) is a nonresident in possession of a boater education certificate, or an equivalency, issued by another state in the nonresident's name; or
(5) is exempt pursuant to a regulation promulgated by the department.
The Smiths, along with many other advocates of safe boating in South Carolina, now need your help. They would like you to contact your legislature, both house members and senators, and ask that they support the passage of this legislation.
In order to find out how to contact your representatives please follow this link: Find My Legislature: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/legislatorssearch.php.