TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami / NSF) – A long-sought after effort to regulate Florida’s commercial parasailing industry has been weighed down in the House with tethered kiteboarding and moored hot air balloons.
Senator Maria Sachs, a Democrat from Delray Beach who has helped lead the regulatory effort, said the additional recreational issues would not look like a proposal (SB 320) that has already been approved – without any kite board and ball language – by the Senate.
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But she added that the House appears to be playing politics with the bill.
“Parasailing deals with a commercial business, and the last time I checked out kitesurfing, kite surfing is a recreational boating activity,” Sachs said this week. “One is a business and it hires people, and the other is a recreational activity that should be on a separate bill. This is how it is treated in the laws. It belongs to another bill.
Before the House proposal (HB 347) was brought forward last Thursday, the House Regulatory Affairs Committee initially based the measure with an 8-8 vote, with Republicans voting in opposition.
The 8-8 vote came after Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, successfully argued that the addition of a pair of amendments by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube to include kitesurfing and moored hot air balloons would change the scope of the bill.
An hour later, the bill was reconsidered, with amendments joined by Waldman which replaced Steube’s amendments verbatim. The measure was then approved unanimously.
Waldman laughed as he regretted that the amendments improved the bill. Committee chairman Doug Holder, R-Venice, said he hoped committee members could see the “value of this good bill and the amendments.”
Holder, Waldman and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who called for the bill to be reconsidered after being among the first to vote against the measure, did not return requests for comment this week. Lawmakers are on leave for the Passover and Easter holidays.
Committee member Pat Rooney, a West Palm Beach Republican and co-sponsor of the bill, was out of the room when the bill was introduced last week. He said on Tuesday that he was not aware of the actions of his fellow committee members.
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“There are things happening every day that I’m up there and I don’t understand why they are happening,” Rooney said. “I’m just glad they brought it back because it’s something I believe in.”
Rooney said he was bringing a separate bill to another committee ahead of the first vote on the parasailing bill.
Immediately after the vote, the bill’s sponsor, Gwyn Clarke-Reed, a Democrat from Deerfield Beach who did not object to the amendments when they were introduced by Steube, declined to comment on the committee’s action, except to say that she was delighted that the bill was heard. on the first floor of the house.
Without change, the House and Senate will have to resolve the new differences in the parasailing bills, both of which are known as the White-Miskell Act. Past attempts at regulation have repeatedly failed in the legislature due to industry opposition.
The bill is named after Kathleen Miskell, a 28-year-old Connecticut woman who died in August 2012 after falling from a harness while parasailing over the ocean off Pompano Beach, and Amber May White, 15, of Belleview, who died in 2007 after a line snapped on a parasail, causing it to hit a hotel roof
Parasailing operators boarded for this session at the behest of Senate Speaker Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, after two teenagers from Indiana were filmed last summer as they were seriously injured while doing Parasailing at Panama City Beach.
The proposed measure would require operators to record weather conditions before embarking, prohibit operations in extreme weather conditions, require operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, and limit operations near airports.
There are about 100 parasailing operators in Florida, most on the coast and one inland at Walt Disney World on Bay Lake in Orange County. The bill would also require everyone to have liability coverage of at least $ 1 million.
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This report is by Jim Turner with The News Service of Florida.