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Proposed legislation ties boating to driver's licenses

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 5:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 12:28 p.m. CDT

Too many drinks on the water could cost boaters their driver’s licenses.

A bill making its way through the General Assembly proposes a three-month suspension of a boater’s driver’s license if the boater is found to be operating a boat under the influence.

It’s one of three bills aimed at boating safety that will be discussed at a public hearing Aug. 29 in Libertyville, potentially the first of several hearings, said the sponsor, Sen. Julie Morrison.

The other bills propose requiring boats towing a person to display a red or orange flag and those born in 1990 or later to have a boating safety certificate before piloting a boat.

Another one of Morrison’s bills was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this summer.

It extends the state’s “implied consent” provision to boaters by requiring the pilot involved in an accident resulting in serious injury or death to consent to a blood, breath or urine test to determine whether they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Those that refuse to take the test can have their driver’s licenses suspended.

The change takes effect Jan. 1.

Morrison took up the issue of boating safety after her nephew, Tony Borcia, was killed. Borcia was riding an inner tube pulled by a boat on Petite Lake in July 2012 when he fell off and was struck by a boat operated by David Hatyina, a Barlett man who was later sentenced to 10 years in prison. Hatyina pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

While the effort started as something personal, Morrison said she hopes to change the culture, shifting how people view operating a boat under the influence.

“Thirty, forty years ago, designated drivers didn’t exist,” she said. “It was a term we didn’t use. Now people are a lot more safer, more considerate. The culture has changed.”

The proposals have raised eyebrows.

Discussions on Fun on the Fox – a popular message board for Chain O’Lakes boaters – have, in some cases, turned nasty, calling out the Borcia family and spreading speculation and rumors.

“It’s more controversial than I thought,” said state Sen. Pam Althoff, a Republican whose district covers the Chain. “I believe that, as with many issues that start to reduce people’s actions and behaviors, there’s always concerns that government will go too far.”

Althoff sent out a news release to area media as well as the Fox Waterway Agency, which expects to vote on a recommendation at its meeting Thursday.

She wants people to know they have a chance to weigh in at the hearing or submit written testimony to Morrison’s office.

Some area officials expect the Aug. 29 hearing to be packed.

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