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N.C. boater law expected to pass

LAKE WYLIE -- By the end of the day, there could be new rules for boaters on Lake Wylie for the 2010 boating season.

A final vote scheduled today could seal the deal on a mandatory boater education law in North Carolina requiring anyone born before 1984 operating a vessel of 10 mph or more to pass a certified state boating course.

"There was not very much opposition to it on the Sentate side," said Brice Bratcher, legislative assistant to N.C. Sen. Doug Berger, co-sponsor of the bill. "I imagine it's going to pass. I don't know why it wouldn't."

The boater bill was introduced Feb. 3 in the House. A companion bill arrived in the Senate the same day, where a revised version passed by a 37-10 vote May 5. That version went back to the House, passing two committees. Some changes already made their way into the bill, most notably the removal of requirement that would phase in boaters of all ages within the first few years of the requirement.

If the bill passes today with ammendments, a conference committee would "iron out the differences between the House and the Senate versions," then send it back to both Legislatures for a re-vote, Bratcher said.

"People don't like changes," Rep. Michael Wray, primary sponsor of the original House bill, has said, "but if have an opportunity to save a life, you need to do it."

A group of Lake Wylie homeowners and Wray began a similar effort on a lake bordering North Carolina and Virginia, but the new law would give both those states mandatory education requirements. South Carolina leaders, however, have said it is not considering adding such a requirement, and likely will not.

If the bill pass today, it would go in effect May 1, 2010.