Gov. Scott signs legislation for boater safety in Florida after Austin & Perry tragedy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed HB 711, which further reduces registration fees for boats equipped with safety features, such as an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). This legislation is an extension of a boater safety bill signed into law by Scott last year.

RELATED: More Austin and Perry coverage

"Just two years ago, we suffered the heartbreaking loss of two teenagers after sailing from the Jupiter Inlet. This important legislation encourages the use of safety measures to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again. I'm proud to continue our efforts to keep Florida's families and visitors safe by signing HB 711 today," said Scott.

To view a copy of the transmittal letter, click HERE.

The tragic disappearance at sea of two teenagers off Jupiter Inlet has spurred state government into reducing fees for boat registrations.

Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, took a boat out of Jupiter Inlet July 24, 2015 and were never seen again.

Last session, that inspired the Florida Legislature to offer a limited-time discount in registration fees for boaters who have a locator beacon in their vessel.

This year, that discount was increased and made permanent in a bill passed out of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday.

Registration fees vary depending on boat length, from the smallest 12-foot-and-under category to the largest, 110-foot-and-over. The normal fees range from $5.50 to $189.75, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Under the new law, the fees for boats with a position-indicating radio beacon, or whose owner has a personal locator beacon, will now pay $2.95 to $141.15. The reduced fees are meant to encourage boaters to buy life-saving equipment without requiring them by law. Such government mandates are anathema to many in the Republican-controlled Legislature, and passage of a bill requiring safety equipment on boats could be difficult.

"Just two years ago, we suffered the heartbreaking loss of two teenagers after sailing from the Jupiter Inlet," Scott said in a statement. "This important legislation encourages the use of safety measures to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again."
 

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