COLUMBIA — South Carolina and Georgia are working in tandem to enter a reciprocal agreement on ticketing wayward boaters, and on Tuesday, South Carolina lawmakers moved their half of the agreement forward.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer bill,” said Mike Sabaka, a captain with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources law enforcement.
Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, said proponents have been working with the two states’ natural resource agencies and the two governors’ staffs to enter a bi-state boating violators compact.
The bill would allow a courtesy summons to be issued instead of immediately forcing a violator to post bond up front.
Sabaka told a subcommittee Tuesday that a similar bi-state compact pertaining to wildlife violations, enacted a few years ago, has helped the agency work more efficiently.
“It keeps our officers in the field doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Sabaka.
If both state legislatures pass bills to enter the compact, South Carolina and Georgia would be the first in the nation to form a boating violators compact. The House subcommittee voted unanimously to send the bill, H. 4561, to the full committee.
Hixon said allowing a courtesy summons will save everyone from expending time and resources.
Under current law, he said, citations for not having a life preserver on board or not having a light meant having to produce money on the spot. Otherwise, officials realized, out-of-state violators would not return to the state to answer for their citations.
“If your didn’t have your bond, they’d most of the time try to take you to the shore, take you to your grandma’s house, or an ATM machine to try to get the money to keep from having to put you to jail,” said Hixon. “It was very time consuming for them in trying to be nice to us and not put us in jail. We pretty much were doing the same thing in South Carolina.”
Hixon has been conferring with his counterpart on the bill, Ga. Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, who has introduced the Georgia version, House Bill 777.
It’s not always clear which state’s water a boater is floating in while traveling on the Savannah River.
“You really never know where the boundary line is,” said Hixon. “You’ve just got to go by the channel.”