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Florida boater-safety bill goes to governor

Inspired by a desire to spare parents the pain of losing their children in boating accidents, a bill that would give boaters a registration discount if they carry an EPIRB or personal locator beacon aboard cleared the Florida legislature.

The House and Senate passed the bill in unanimous votes and Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it. The measure would discount registrations by almost 23 percent for the smallest boats and 11.9 percent for the largest ones — with markdowns ranging from 15 to 13 percent for size classes in between — for boat owners who can show they own a properly registered 406 MHz EPIRB or PLB.

The discounts would be effective July 1 but would sunset after a year, so the legislature would have to take them up again in 2017 to continue them. A Senate version of the bill proposed a permanent 25 percent discount for qualifying boats, but the House capped funding for the measure at $250,000 and set its expiration at a year.

Blu Stephanos and Carly Black, the parents of Austin Blu Stephanos, who was lost at sea with friend Perry Cohen after the 14-year-olds went fishing off Jupiter last July in a 19-foot Seacraft, worked with state Sen. Joe Negron and state Rep. Marylynn Magar to write the bill.

The parents said they hope registration discounts will encourage boaters to carry the emergency beacons, which alert the Coast Guard to vessels in distress and lead rescuers to their location with a satellite signal.

“We want to help parents — we want to help anyone — not have to go through what we’ve had to go through,” Black said.

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