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Gov. Mike Easley on Monday reconvened the legislative session for 11 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 27, to discuss the boat trailer bill he vetoed Aug. 17.
State and county tourism officials watched the bill closely and favored its passage, saying recent citations of recreational fishermen for towing certain size trailers are resulting in complaints and bad press for the state.
According to the state constitution, when a veto occurs after the General Assembly has adjourned, the governor is required to reconvene the session within 10 days of the veto or the bill becomes law.
The legislation in question, House Bill 2167, is titled, “An act to increase the width of boats that may be transported on highway routes during the day and night without a permit and to provide for an annual permit as opposed to a single trip permit for oversize boats.”
Legislators introduced the bill after the state board of transportation adopted a resolution asking the General Assembly to review laws regarding “special permits and commercial driver’s licenses” in reaction to public complaints.
For about a year, fishermen were complaining to state officials about patrolmen enforcing laws they hadn’t enforced before. Fishermen said they were receiving massive fines for violating towing laws, specifically towing trailers more than 102 inches wide without a Class A driver’s license and for pulling the trailers at night, on holidays and on Sundays.
In response, the House passed the bill 105-5, and the Senate passed it 43-0. The bill states, in part, “The towing of a boat or boat trailer 102 inches to 114 inches in width may take place on any day of the week, including weekends and holidays, and may take place at night.
“The towing of a boat or boat trailer 114 inches to 120 inches in width may take place on any day of the week, including weekends and holidays from sun up to sun down.”
In his veto message, Easley cited safety issues as the reason for shooting down the bill.
“House Bill 2167, allows extremely large boats as wide as 9 feet to be towed on any state road at anytime, including night time, any day of the week, without a permit as required by all other states from Texas to Virginia,” Easley wrote.
Holden Beach Mayor Alan Holden, who serves on the N.C. Travel Industry Association board of directors, said Tuesday he appreciates the state’s quick response and is optimistic about the chances for the bill to become law.
“I know there’s a considerable amount of interest—not only from us [in the coastal counties] but others who are feeling the impact,” Holden said. “Others who didn’t think it would touch them now realize it has an impact on them after all.”
Monday afternoon, Easley’s office issued a public statement about the bill.
“Any effort to find a way of towing these oversized boats needs to be done in a manner that does not endanger other motorists,” the message stated.
“Particularly, Gov. Mike Easley agrees with Crime Control and Public Safety Secretary Bryan Beatty that any new law must limit the legal blood alcohol level of a driver towing an oversized boat to no more than .04 percent, the same as allowed for commercial drivers.
“Those towing these large boats must be at least 18 years old, and the oversized boats cannot be towed at nighttime. Gov. Easley’s foremost priority is safety on our highways.”
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.