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Georgia, South Carolina legislators seek boating compact

Posted: January 29, 2014 - 1:04pm

Answering for a boating violation in Georgia waters might be less of an ordeal if the legislatures in South Carolina and Georgia sign a bi-state boating compact.

The proposal is among the first projects of the Savannah River Caucus, which came into being last year.

The boating compact would function like agreements states have for other aspects of law enforcement, such as honoring each other’s drivers’ licenses.

An out-of-state motorist stopped for speeding isn’t automatically hauled to jail to pay a fine or post a bond because the home state agrees to enforce the ticket, said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, chairman of the Georgia legislators in the caucus.

But a South Carolina boater who commits a boating infraction on the Georgia side of the Savannah River has a bigger headache than if he had committed a driving violation.

That’s why each state’s department of natural resources asked the caucus members for legislation setting up a compact.

“What this does is establish a compact between the two states so that if you have an infraction of the law and you don’t show back up to pay your fine or go to court, they can send it over to the DNR of the other state, which would basically set up the process of forcing you to show up in court or pay,” said Powell, who introduced the Georgia version on Jan. 21.

Thursday, North Augus-ta Republican Rep. Bill Hixon introduced South Carolina’s part of the equation.

The bill, H. 4561, approves the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ participation in the Interstate Boating Violator Compact. About 80 co-sponsors have signed on to the legislation

The bill would allow the home state to treat a boating conviction of one of its residents in another state as if the conviction had occurred in the home state.

That is, if the other state was also a member of the compact.

“Each (state’s) agency would issue tickets under their own authority and current law,” said Brett Witt, spokesman for the S.C. DNR.

The proposed boating violator compact closely mirrors one already in effect, called the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact. As a compact member, South Carolina has agreed to treat nonresidents who are from member states as if they were residents of South Carolina when they get ticketed for hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife violations.

Without interstate reciprocity, someone who can’t immediately post collateral, furnish a bond, stand trial, or pay the fine, must remain in custody. Hixon said the reason nonresidents must post bond right away is that people from out of state were not paying their fines.

The lawmaker said the proposed boating compact between South Carolina and Georgia would be the first of its kind nationwide.

‘‘It’s a convenience for citizens and a money-saving thing for wildlife officers,’’ he said.

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