File Photo -- People wait for the arrival of their friends and family by boats at the east bank boat ramp at Lake Lanier.
ATLANTA -- A bill filed to make comprehensive changes to Georgia's boating laws is expected to come up for a vote on the Senate floor on Friday.
Authored by Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, the bill was developed in response to a boating accident on Lake Lanier in which two young brothers were killed when an alleged drunken boater hit their family pontoon boat throwing all 13 aboard into the water. If SB 136 becomes law it will reduce the boating under the influence (BUI) blood concentration limit from 0.10 to 0.08 and require that anyone operating a boat born after Jan. 1, 1998 complete a boating education course. The bill has already passed the Natural Resources Committee.Within weeks after the accident, a previously dormant Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus (consisting of senators and representatives having Lanier shoreline within their districts) convened stakeholders and citizens to solicit input on what should be done to prevent future accidents. The group met on three different occasions.
Miller explained his motivation for entitling sections of the bill the "Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law."
"These kids deserve to be remembered," he said. "They had just finished a day on the lake, being boys and having fun like millions of kids every year in this state. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that this senseless, horrific tragedy is addressed [because] children have a right to grow up."
Miller, who grew up spending his summers on the lake, recalls swimming a long cove "to visit a girlfriend on the other side," He admits that the lake is a lot more crowded and dangerous than when he was young.
The senator, in his second term of office, recalls a lake-side visit by Governor Nathan Deal shortly after his election.
"The two of us sat at the marina and had lunch and watched the boats go by," said Miller, who said the tone of their pleasant conversation changed when the subject of boating accidents came up. "I could tell (Deal) really took that seriously. I know this accident really affected him."
Deal's response to the accident was swift. He requested that Department of Natural Resources Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver of the law enforcement section of the wildlife division prepare a report detailing the group's suggestions and policy recommendations. The report is the basis of the proposed law.
Miller said the group struggled to reach a balance "between keeping people safe and able to enjoy their family time and over-legislating." He acknowledged that boat operators still aren't required to have insurance or even register their boats.
"I am not a fan of big, intrusive government," he said. "I just want to prevent other children from being killed."
Deal named a section of the bill for Kile Glover, stepson of entertainer Usher Raymond. He was 11 when he was killed last summer by an oncoming jet ski.
The bill also addresses "hunting under the influence" and makes the alcohol limit consistent with boating and driving (0.08).