A bill to require permits for adult boat operators received this week its second stop in committee. Heard in the Senate Environment Finance committee, this bill would mark a drastic change in Minnesota’s boating laws by requiring all Minnesotans to obtain a permit to operate a motorboat or motorized personal watercraft.
Under current law, youth ages 12-17 years are required to complete an online boating safety course to receive a water operator’s permit for operating certain motorized watercraft, including boats and jet skis; operators that are 18 years of age or older may operate a motorboat without any restrictions. With the increase of boat usage in recent years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased boater traffic has led to higher boating accidents and fatalities and increased damage to the state’s aquatic ecosystems.
Supporters of the legislation argue that the intent of the proposal isn’t to crack down on boaters but to ensure anyone who operates a craft in Minnesota is doing so safely and with consideration of the environmental impacts to the lakes and rivers we all love. Currently, more than half of the states in the country require some form of operator education for adult boat users.
The bill was previously passed out of the Senate Environment Policy committee on a bipartisan basis, and it was laid over this week for possible inclusion in a larger environment omnibus bill later this session. (SF 3392)