State Reps. Dennis Murray, D-Sandusky, and Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, introduced a law calling for law enforcement officers to stop boats only when there’s reasonable suspicion the boat or its passengers are violating a law or engaging in criminal activity.
The proposed law mirrors the rules law enforcement must abide by when pulling over a driver on the road.
“There’s no reason that peaceful, law-abiding citizens enjoying Lake Erie should be subjected to random and arbitrary stops,” Murray said.
“We wouldn’t think to tolerate this on land because such practices are fraught with opportunities for abuse.”
The collaboration between a Democrat and Republican represents a refreshing change, compared to the usual bickering between both parties.
“We both represent the Lake Erie region and understand the importance of the legislation,” Damschroder said. “This is certainly not a partisan issue, and it’s great to have the support of members from both sides of the aisle.”
The proposed law almost identically matches a law recently approved in Michigan, which goes into effect Nov. 1.
Some boaters are enthused about the proposal.
Among them: Sandusky Bay barge party promoter Shaun Bickley, who said the law would support Fourth Amendment rights, which protect people from unreasonable search and seizure.
The law will “promote everyone getting their initial safety checks in the spring, and law enforcement will know those boats are up to speed and won’t have to stop them,” Bickley said. “I’ve got friends who have sold their boats because they have been boarded so many times.”
Boating and lake recreation remain huge contributors to the $1.5 billion tourist industry in Erie and Ottawa counties.