Cleveland.com reports that Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich has signed the Boater Freedom Act, designed to rein in local and state officers from boarding local pleasure and charter boats unless there is a reasonable suspicion that laws are being broken.
Sponsor Rep. Rex Damschroder, a Republican from Fremont, said boaters in Northwest Ohio have been complaining about constant safety inspection by local and state agencies, including the Ohio Division of Watercraft. Some boaters, said Damschroder, have been checked multiple times during the same day and cited one instance of a local boater being brought to shore while face down and in handcuffs, even though a breathalyzer test showed no evidence of alcohol use.
The regulation will not stop U.S. Coast Guard or Homeland Security officials from arbitrarily stopping and boarding boats.
“Out next goal ought to be sitting down with the Coast Guard and telling them they don’t have to treat (boaters) like thugs,” said Damschroder. “We want them to do what’s right. If they see someone violating the law, go after them. But don’t harass boaters.”
The legislation was needed because local and state law enforecment officials “have become so repressive around Lake Erie, and especially the Western Basin,” said Ken Alvery, head of the Lake Erie Marina Trades Assocaition. “It hurts tourism, fishing and boating in general.”