Supporters of limiting boat speeds on New Hampshire lakes are more optimistic about success given the new makeup of the state Legislature.
The House approved a bill last year that would have established a 45 mph daytime speed limit and a 25 mph nighttime limit, but it failed by four votes in the Senate.
Since then, four of the Republicans who voted against the bill have been replaced by Democrats, who now hold a 14-10 majority in the Senate.
They’ll be asked to pass a bill nearly identical to last year’s version, with the only difference being that the new one calls for setting speed limits on all state lakes rather than “state waters.”
Rep. Jim Pilliod, R-Belmont, prime sponsor of both bills, said the new Senate is “absolutely” more likely to look favorably on a bill that he called critical to safety and tourism.
Sen. Jacalyn Cilley, one of the freshmen Democrats in the Senate, voted in favor of the speed limit bill last year while serving in the House and is co-sponsor of the new bill.
Freshman Sen. Kathy Sgambati, D-Tilton, said she hopes a boating speed limit will pass, but anticipates that it again will be a contentious issue that will require much input from both sides.
“I think people are still weighing in on it and (the legislators) are still listening to those on both sides. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. I have gone on record in supporting it, but I think there will be questions about if there are alternatives that can accommodate both interests,” said Sgambati.
Sen. Deborah Reynolds, D-Plymouth, another first-term legislator who defeated her Republican opponent in November, said she also supports the speed limit but that the issue is a controversial one that requires considerable review.
“I think that it’s really important in the Lakes Region for us to hear from all sides,” said Reynolds.
Meanwhile, an attempt to set speed limits on only the state’s largest lake remains in limbo. After the statewide bill failed last year, speed limit supporters submitted a petition specific to Lake Winnipesaukee to the Department of Safety, which held a public hearing and compiled a 70-plus page report for Safety Commissioner Richard Flynn.
Flynn has yet to act on the petition, and Gov. Lynch recently announced he will not nominate Flynn to continue as commissioner when his term expires in March.
“This will delay the petition I’m sure, but with the bill on a statewide speed limit being proposed it was unlikely that (the Department of Safety) would make a decision,” said Jared Teutsch, president of the New Hampshire Lakes Association. “They are always going to defer to the legislation (and) we will be pushing for the legislation at this point.”
Information from: Citizen, http://www.fosters.com/citizen
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