Williams looks to beat veto on boat-width bill

Published 6:23 pm Saturday, August 23, 2008

By Staff
Says he has the votes to move the boats
Staff Writer
N.C. State Rep. Arthur Williams (D – Beaufort and Pitt) said Friday he expects to get wider boats rolling on North Carolina’s highways, despite a veto by Gov. Mike Easley.
The veto is Easley’s ninth, and his first eight have stuck. Williams said he’s confident his bill has enough support to reach the sixty percent majority it needs to become law.
Williams had to shepherd the bill, which would allow boaters to tow craft up to 9.5 feet wide without a permit, through both houses of the General Assembly and five separate committees, he said. The current standard is 8.5 feet.
The bill has a lifetime record of 496 yes votes and 21 no votes, Williams said.
Easley nixed the bill over safety concerns, according to a statement from his office.
Since then, the North Carolina Highway Patrol has weighed in, agreeing with the governor.
But Williams said the boats his bill would allow have long traversed the state’s highways and that his proposal came after the highway patrol started issuing more tickets .
Professional anglers who come to North Carolina for tournaments are starting to label the state a ticket trap, said Austin Smithwick, general manager of Park Boat Company’s dealership.
He said the regulations are also ensnaring boaters using boats under 8.5 feet wide that have trailers with guideposts wider than that.
Williams also said the boats’ trailers will remain the same size as before.
The bill’s supporters had already made concessions, including going from 10 feet to 9.5 feet and calling for amber lights on the widest points of trailers and boats, Williams said. He did fight requests for lower standards for intoxication for drivers hauling boats, Williams said.
Williams sponsored the bill in a bid to help local boaters as well as the boat manufacturing companies that make up a big chunk of eastern North Carolina’s economy.
If the veto is overridden, Smithwick said his company would definitely benefit.
He thinks the new law would ease people’s minds, Smithwick said.