Local Politics

Lawmakers override boat-towing veto

Posted August 27, 2008

— The General Assembly made history Wednesday by overriding its first veto after failing to reach a deal with Gov. Mike Easley's office on a boat-towing bill.

House members voted 95-8 and senators voted 39-0 Wednesday morning to override Easley's recent veto of House Bill 2167.

"The governor felt strongly, obviously, about the bill, but the General Assembly felt strongly as well. That's why we have a constitution," said state Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake.

The new law allows boats up to 10 feet wide to be towed without a permit. It also permits watercraft up to 9.5 feet wide to be towed at night and on weekends.

Supporters argued the bill would help North Carolina boaters and fishing tournaments hampered by state law that permits boats up to 8.5 feet wide to be towed only during daylight hours on weekdays.

Easley cited concerns that were echoed by the state Highway Patrol that having bigger boats on the road would cause accidents. Easley also said he was disappointed it did not limit the blood-alcohol level for boat towers.

AAA officials said they were disappointed by the override.

“North Carolina’s highway death toll is rising faster than any state in the nation,” David Parsons, president and chief executive of AAA Carolinas, said in a statement. “The legislature, as it has often done in the past, is allowing oversize vehicles to travel on roads with lanes too narrow for the vehicle without showing adequate concern for those who might encounter those vehicles on the road.”

North Carolina had the nation’s greatest increase in deaths last year, with 121 more than in 2006.

House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said days of negotiations between lawmakers and Easley's representatives hadn't produced a compromise on the measure, prompting the override vote.

"His safety concerns were overblown, (and) the vast majority of both houses had already voted on these issues," Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said.

Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, and others said Easley wasted the $50,000 it cost to bring lawmakers back to Raleigh when he could have raised his concerns when the General Assembly first passed the bill.

"Call (a special session) about something important, not something (because) you just have a bone to pick with the sponsors of this bill," said state Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.

House Speaker Joe Hackney, who flew back to Raleigh early Wednesday from the Democratic National Convention in Denver, said he had no quibble about the special session.

"The governor has the right to veto bills. He has the right to call us back into session. So, that's what the law is. There's no reason to complain about it," Hackney said.

Wednesday's votes mark the first time in North Carolina that lawmakers have overridden a gubernatorial veto.

No governor in the state had veto power until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1996 allowing it. Former Gov. Jim Hunt never used the veto, and Easley's first eight vetoes either failed an override vote or resulted in a legislative compromise.


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  • beachboater Aug 28, 2008

    Something nobody has bothered to think of, what about all the tractor trailers on the highway. Thousands and thousands of them. The trailers are 102 inches wide, BUT add the mirror width and you can add a minimum of a foot to the width. (6" in each side.) Probably more.

    I have yet to see ANY statistics on boat trailer accidents. I've been boating all of my life and I've NEVER seen a big boat in an accident. I have seen a small one.

    Where is this danger? I spoke with a boating lawyer friend of mine yesterday and he says there will be more wide boats on the road because of this. I disagree. Most of the the larger boats stay at the coast anyway and are rarely towed.

    My boat is 105" wide. I pull it home in late fall and pull it to the coast around Memorial Day. Twice a year and it's all on wide state highways or 4 lane roads. You just don't take the back roads with a big load. People care about the investment in these boats. I really think it's a non-issue.

  • dko Aug 28, 2008

    All this is aboutis more money by getting permits NOT about safety. At least someone listened to the people Easley never has

  • Bendal1 Aug 28, 2008


    While the NC and US routes have 12' lanes, the rural secondary routes (the SR routes) have pavement widths as low as 18' overall (9' lanes) and I've seen some that were less than that, even those near recreational lakes. Throw in the need to avoid mailboxes, narrow bridges, narrow shoulders, and broken pavement/rutted shoulders that the driver will certainly want to avoid, and it means the wide boat trailers will be overhanging the center stripe on even a road with 10' lanes.

  • hdsoftail Aug 28, 2008

    This is just another way to tax us working people with boats. But dont worry they will come up with something else to put taxes on.

  • HadEnough Aug 28, 2008

    BSC wrote: It's going to be sad to see Easly leave office. This guy has some good common sense about him.
    Is this the same common sense he used to purchase a $60 cheeseburger in Italy? And did his common sense instruct him to not meet with the President on his many visits to NC?
    We can't get this guy out of here quick enough.

  • chialex Aug 27, 2008

    Okay, you were called back to Raleigh to debate this... ... of all things worth merit on the table... People are dying and we're worried about boats.

    Guess Robin Williams was right. "Politicians are a lot like diapers. They should be changed frequently, and for the same reason."

  • DeaconBlues Aug 27, 2008

    It's going to be sad to see Easly leave office. This guy has some good common sense about him. It's going to be endangering folks when this law passes.

  • domesticgoddess Aug 27, 2008

    There must be a lot of lawmakers that own a large boat.

  • areadriver Aug 27, 2008

    Whether you have a permit or not, it is still ILLEGAL to cross the double yellow line. It is the responsibility of whoever is towing the wide load to yield right of way. You can catch me next summer down at the coast. I'll be the guy driving the pickup with the snow plow around the boat ramps! Note: to they guy talking about towing mobile homes down east, there is a reason that you see a pilot car 1/4 mile ahead of those things coming at you. I do have to add though that the guys hauling heavy equipment on multiple axles, moreoften that not can't getout of both lanes ue to the weight of what they are haulng. Most times they are not able to get their tires off the pavement or the truck will sink. Boats don't weigh much. They should have no problem riding in the grass.

  • A confused citizen Aug 27, 2008

    So now an individual can tow a boat up to 10 ft (approx 3.05 metres) wide on a North Carolina without a permit. This is to facilitate people to attend fishing tournaments without the hassle of current towing restrictions, i.e. permits etc. So where are all these people coming from. If they are out of state, i.e. Florida, they still face an 8.5 ft restriction in their home states. ref: www.trailerboats.com/images/elements/1389781_Chapter%209.%20ROAD%20RULES.pdf Most states listed, with the exception of Hawaii have an 8.5" limit on trailer width. So exactly what did this veto accomplish besides making our much neglected road system a bit more hazardous?