BASS: Virginia promotes safe boating

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia B.A.S.S. Federation Nation has been instrumental in getting a boating safety bill passed through the state legislature.

 The Federation Nation has been supporting the passage of HB 1627, a boater safety bill introduced in the House of Delegates by Delegate Kathy Byron at the start of the 2007 General Assembly. If this measure becomes law, it would require all boaters of any age in Virginia to pass a boater safety course. The only exceptions are law enforcement officers who are performing their duties and anyone operating a boat with an engine that is 10 horsepower or smaller.

 Joan Blankenship, Virginia Federation Nation president, and Robert Blankenship, Virginia Federation Nation conservation director, have been key figures in rallying state members to support the bill.

 "We have been to all the meetings and I have called other Federation Nation members to ask them to call their local delegate or senator about the bill," said Robert Blankenship. "The state Federation Nation provided a letter of support to Delegate Kathy Byron who introduced the bill. I think that alone helped sway some opinions in the General Assembly by the legislators having the knowledge that a 1,200-member angling group is in support of this. I think that was key, in addition to individual Federation Nation anglers in the state calling their delegates and senators."

 A boating accident resulting in two fatalities on Smith Mountain Lake last summer led to the introduction of legislation for mandatory boater safety education and speed limits on Smith Mountain, but the bill failed. As a member of the Virginia Safe Boating Alliance, the Federation Nation played an integral role in helping craft HB 1627 that passed through the legislature.

 "The Federation Nation realized boating safety education was inevitable in Virginia, so we felt inclined to be involved in the process rather than just be subject to it," said Robert Blankenship.

 The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Tim Kaine before it becomes a law. Blankenship plans on the Federation Nation being involved with the boater safety course if the bill becomes a law.

 "An approved boater safety course in Virginia is currently being taught by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as well as various Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas around the state," he said.

 The one key area where I see the Federation Nation getting involved in the future will be to get as many of our members as possible certified to teach the course."

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