TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A long-sought effort to regulate Florida’s commercial parasailing industry has been weighed down in the House with tethered kite boarding and moored ballooning.
Sen. Maria Sachs, a Delray Beach Democrat who has helped lead the regulation effort, said the added recreational issues won’t take the air from under a proposal (SB 320) that has already been approved — without any kite board and balloon language — by the Senate.
But she added that the House appears to be playing politics with the bill.
“Parasailing deals with a commercial enterprise, and the last time I checked kite boarding, kite surfing is a recreational water activity,” Sachs said this week. “One is a business and it takes people up for hire, and the other one is a recreational activity that should be on a separate bill. That’s the way it’s treated in statutes. It belongs on another bill.”
Before the House proposal (HB 347) was advanced to the floor last Thursday, the House Regulatory Affairs Committee initially grounded the measure in an 8-8 vote, with Republicans voting in opposition.
The 8-8 vote came after Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, successfully argued that the addition of a pair of amendments by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube to include kite boarding and moored ballooning would change the scope of the bill.
An hour later, the bill was brought back up, with amendments attached by Waldman that were word for word replacements of Steube’s amendments. The measure was then unanimously approved.
Waldman laughed as he sad the amendments made the bill much better. Committee Chairman Doug Holder, R-Venice, said he hoped committee members could see the “value of this good bill and the amendments.”
Holder, Waldman, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who requested the bill be reconsidered after he was among the first voting against the measure, did not return requests for comment this week. Lawmakers are off for the Passover and Easter holidays.
Committee member Pat Rooney, a West Palm Beach Republican and a co-sponsor of the bill, was out of the room when the bill came up last week. He said Tuesday that he remained unaware of his fellow committee members’ actions.
“There are things happening every day that I’m up there that I don’t understand why they are happening,” Rooney said. “I’m just glad they brought it back because it is something I believe in.”
Rooney said he was introducing a separate bill in another committee prior to the first vote on the parasailing bill.
Immediately after the vote, bill sponsor Gwyn Clarke-Reed, a Deerfield Beach Democrat who didn’t object to the amendments when they were introduced by Steube, declined to comment on the committee action other than to say she was pleased the bill will be heard on the House floor.
Without a change, the House and Senate will have to work out the new differences in the parasailing bills, which are both named the White-Miskell Act. Past attempts at regulation have repeatedly failed to advance through the Legislature because of industry opposition.
The bill is named after Kathleen Miskell, a 28-year-old Connecticut woman who died in August 2012 after she fell from a harness while parasailing over the ocean off Pompano Beach, and Amber May White, 15, of Belleview, who died in 2007 after a line snapped on a parasail, resulting in her hitting the roof of a hotel
Parasail operators got on board for this session at the urging of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, after two Indiana teens were videotaped last summer as they were seriously injured parasailing in Panama City Beach.
The proposed measure would require operators to log weather conditions before embarking, forbid operations during severe weather conditions, require operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and limit operations near airports.
There are an estimated 100 parasail operators in Florida, most on the coast and one inland at Walt Disney World on Bay Lake in Orange County. The bill would also require each to have at least $1 million in liability coverage.
This report is by Jim Turner with The News Service of Florida.