Bill 140 is a deplorable and intrusive bit of legislation
that would require every individual on a boat to wear a personal
flotation device (PFD) while the boat is underway. This bill not
only requires the boat’s operator to wear a PFD but also
specifically “prohibits an individual from operating or
allowing the operation of a vessel while there is present in the
vessel an individual not wearing a PFD…” and “[applies]
regardless of [an individual’s] age or size of the vessel.”
Considering the fact
that federal law already requires all boats to contain one properly-sized
personal flotation device for every individual onboard, this bill
is a gratuitous display of legislative overreach that all too
clearly gives the impression that the state rather than the individual
knows what is in the best interest of individual citizens.
One normally would
assume that the absurdity of such legislation would defy explanation,
but far too many Maryland legislators apparently are either unaware
of or unconcerned about the importance of private property rights
and the concept of personal responsibility.
The most intimate
property right one possesses is the right to own one’s body
(let pro-choice Democrats refute that one). In short, if an individual
boater feels the need to wear a personal flotation device while
on the water, he will do so whether the state mandates it or not.
A cursory glance around the Chesapeake Bay on a summer weekend
afternoon validates this argument. Maryland’s waterways
have been filled for years with hobbyists who fish in small boats
and wear life vests for their own wellbeing.
given that current state law requires only small children on boats
21 feet or less in length to wear PFDs at all times, it seems
there’s even more at play here than a superfluous concern
for our safety. According to Boating
Statistics 2004, published by the U.S. Coast Guard in September
2005, there were 206,681 motorboats registered in Maryland in
2004 and only 16 boating fatalities. Boating certainly can be
a dangerous activity, but these numbers indicate that it is undeniably
safe if people are smart about it and observe existing laws.
In this light,
one could be forgiven for wondering whether this bill is just
another ploy by Maryland legislators to stuff state coffers at
the expense of our liberties, along the same line as red light
cameras and night vision goggles issued to Maryland troopers to
enforce seat belt laws (a project wisely discontinued
by Governor Bob Ehrlich last year). Indeed, tucked away at the
end of HB 140 is a section estimating that state revenues are
expected to increase by as much as $700,000 by fiscal year 2007
as a result of this new law, which would allow the state to fine
first-time offenders as much as $500 and slap them with a misdemeanor.
A subsequent offense could carry a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment
up to a year, or both (!). All for conducting oneself in a manner
that is perfectly legal today.
Alas, it is becoming
ever more apparent that our bureaucrats increasingly view taxpayers
as little more than revenue generators -- serfs to be exploited
through violation of bizarre regulations -- through which these
lawmakers can finance pet projects for their own self-gratification.
Yet how odd that so
few among us are incensed by such behavior. How strange that so
many of us seem oblivious to the idea that if enough freedom-stomping
legislation is passed, that eventually we’ll all be guilty
of some crime or another, many of which are simply manufactured
out of whole cloth at the hands of our politicians.
motives, perhaps the most offensive aspect of such nanny-statism
is the undeniable fact that as government further purports to
assume for its citizens the responsibilities individuals should
retain for themselves, dependence upon it only increases. Extrapolated
to its logical conclusion, such abuse of government authority
will slowly encourage and compel citizens to surrender their liberties
to the point where we effectively become wards of the state.