State News

Gov. Easley vetoes bill to ease boat towing rules

Posted August 17, 2008

— Gov. Mike Easley made good on a lingering veto threat Sunday when he rejected a bill which would have eased boat towing restrictions for North Carolina motorists.

"I sincerely believe that this bill puts families at a risk on the highways and would result in death or serious injury," Easley said in a statement announcing the action.

The rejected legislation would have allowed drivers to pull boats up to 10 feet wide on any day of the week without first obtaining a special permit. Motorists also would have been allowed to tow watercraft up to 9 1/2 feet wide at night.

State law allows boats up to 8 1/2 feet wide to be towed only during daylight hours on weekdays.

In pushing for the legislation this summer, lawmakers had said the current law jeopardized North Carolina's ability to host competitive fishing tournaments and severely limited North Carolina boaters' ability to take weekend trips.

The governor had until midnight on Sunday to veto or sign into law legislation that lawmakers had approved before adjourning July 18. If Easley did not take action on the bills – including the boat towing measure – they would have become law.

The veto should come as no surprise to lawmakers.

In July, top Easley aide Franklin Freeman told House and Senate lawmakers that the governor thought the measure was unsafe.

Easley echoed that Sunday, saying North Carolina has 60,000 miles of two-lane roads which are too narrow to accommodate 9 1/2 foot-wide boats safely. That means those watercraft would run over the center line and into oncoming traffic, he said.

"Further, if two 9-1/2 foot boats were to meet on an 18-foot strip of road or bridge it would be physically impossible to escape a collision," Easley said in his statement.

The bill now returns to the General Assembly, where legislative leaders will decide whether to accept Easley's veto or try to override it. Easley urged lawmakers to wait until next year to revise the law so there is ample time to study the consequences of the legislation.

To revive the measure, three-fifths of the House and Senate members present in each chamber would need to vote for the measure.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously. The House approved it 108-5.

A spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney said Sunday evening that legislative leaders have yet to decide whether they will try to override the veto.

Bill sponsor Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, said he is confident there are enough supporters to override the veto, should the General Assembly come back to Raleigh.

Williams challenged Easley's claims that the measure is unsafe, saying that the wider boats would be resting on the same sized trailers and that an extra five or six inches on each side would not jeopardize motorists' safety.

"They've been running those boats up and down the highways of North Carolina since 1982," Williams said. "They haven't had a lot of accidents."

The General Assembly has never overridden a veto in the 11 years since it granted North Carolina governors the power to reject legislation.

Easley, now nearing the end of his second four-year term, is the only governor to use the authority.


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  • DaleShadow Aug 21, 2008

    Never thought that I would support the Gov, but here I am! If you want to haul a boat (ship) of that size, you need:

    Training on how to haul one
    Pass a test with DOT
    To be limited to 4-lane (tho parts of Six Forks and Falls of Neuse are skinny lanes) or interstate, esp at night.

    You pay good money for the boat, maybe you want to protect it (and other drivers) by having it hauled (by a professional) to where you need it.

  • khbeck Aug 19, 2008

    Urbizn, you are exactly right. My boat is not exactly a yacht, but at 23' is over the limit by 3". People, this is not relaxing the rules just closing a loophole the NCHP has been using to write very expensive tickets. You are saying anyone pulling a boat large than 20' should go by the same rules as somone towing a mobile home?? That's crazy.

    Hope no one pulls a pontoon boat to the lake in the near future. That's some dangerous stuff there.

  • alwayslovingu30 Aug 18, 2008

    Just more stupid laws to sign take A paycut dumb laws require A paycut for politicians cut their pay they might find A actual law to sigh in

  • CrewMax Aug 18, 2008

    "State law allows boats up to 8 1/2 feet wide to be towed only during daylight hours on weekdays."

    I am confused. This statement makes it sound like boats 8 1/2 feet and UNDER can only be towed during the weekday during daylight hours. This would mean any night fishing boaters would be illegal to tow at night (especially on weekends). Is this a typo?

  • dogman1973 Aug 18, 2008

    "I sincerely believe that this bill puts families at a risk on the highways and would result in death or serious injury," Easley said in a statement announcing the action.....I think having a bunch of illegals who can't read English or driving while intoxicated on the NC roadways puts families at more risk on the highways than a big old boat, MIKE EASY ON ILLEGALS!!!

  • ThisIsMyName Aug 18, 2008

    Most people who pull anything are complete morons who shouldn't be pulling something. First thing I see is way too many trailers where the trailer lights aren't working or not connected to the vehicle.

  • canes017 Aug 18, 2008

    What a pointless veto. Now everyone will just have to go and get a permit to do exactly what they were going to do anyways. This doesn't make the roads safer in any way, shape, or form as it is still legal to tow a large boat WITH a permit.

    This is just another way to tax the people... own a big boat, pay the govt if you want to move it, which in turn hurts the communities where the tournaments are held because some choose not to come and those who do have a permit's worth of money less to spend while there.

  • Boot-the-DC-Tyrant Aug 18, 2008

    Thank you Gov. for giving us another reason to realize that you "just ain't that smart"!!

  • urbizn Aug 18, 2008

    Easley has seriously messed up.

    Until the NCSHP began a draconian enforcement program last fall, the same boats moved safely, 7x24, on the roads of NC for many, many years. Accident statistics from NCDOT prove that these vehicles have an outstanding safety record.

    Easley's veto will negatively affect tens of thousands of NC trailer boaters, most of whom have no clue that their boats and trailers (as small as 18 feet in length) are in violation by being just a few inches wider than 102".....that is, until they are stopped on their way to or from a lake or beach outing and issued a $500 ticket.

    In addition to the affected trailer boaters, this will have a negative effect on coastal merchants including grocers, gas stations, bait/tackle shops, motels, rental cottages, marinas, restaurants, and other coastal (and inland lake) businesses whom the boaters patronize.

  • WHEEL Aug 18, 2008

    Little lame duck Mike thinks he is still relevant. The Legislature will meet again but he will never be Governor again.