Lower boat taxes, longer testing time for boaters under the influence and more boater education are three of the four items the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will be supporting for passage in the 2013 Kansas Legislature.
The department will also promote a bill for more non-resident deer hunting permits for wounded solders, said Ron Kaufman, KDWPT public information officer.
In 2012, Kansans voted to amend the Kansas Constitution to allow the state legislature to alter the property tax on water vessels.
Responding to the opportunity, KDWPT is supporting legislation that will reduce vessel property tax from the current 30 percent of the vessel's value over a three year period and eventually eliminate the tax altogether, Kaufman said.
If the proposal passes, it would take effect in 2014 with the vessel property tax reduced to 20 percent followed in 2015 with another reduction down to 10 percent and finally in 2016 a complete exemption on vessel property tax.
The current 30 percent property tax is very high and it has prompted Kansas boaters to go to other states to register their boats where the property tax is lower or non-existent.
The registration fee for boats of all sizes in Kansas is $30 for three years. With an estimated 10,000 Kansas boat owners registering their boats in other states, that is a $300,000 loss of revenue over a three-year period.
By reducing the property tax, KDWPT hopes it will encourage those boat owners to register their vessels back in Kansas and help stimulate boat sales in the state.
"Our goal is to bring our property tax in line with bordering states so we're more competitive," Kaufman said.
Currently, Kansas has about 85,000 registered watercrafts in the state.
Another legislative issue concerning boats is an increase in the time a boater can be tested for operating a vessel under the influence.
Currently, the time limit is two hours for testing and that provides a very narrow window especially since many of the state lakes are a long distance from a testing facility.
The proposed legislation would increase the time limit for testing from two hours to three hours. That would give the department more time to test operators and it would also bring the testing time in line with motor vehicle testing time, Kaufman said.
A third issue would eliminate an exemption for those over 21 who need boater education who were born after Jan. 1, 1989.
Boaters need to understand navigation rules, signs and marker recognition, proper boat operation, proper use of life preservers and other skills to operate a boat safely, Kaufman said.
Anyone over 21 and born after Jan. 1, 1989 is exempt from taking boater education. This legislation would remove that exemption, require those over 21 to take boater education and help make Kansas lakes and waterways safer.
Also on the KDWPT legislative wish list is legislation that would increase the number of out-of-state deer hunting permits the Department could issue so they could offer permits to wounded soldiers.
During the year KDWPT gets calls from various groups, outfitters or individual requesting non-resident deer hunting permits as a special hunt for wounded soldiers.
Many of these calls come in around July after the allowed number of non-resident permits has been sold, said Mike Miller, KDWPT chief of information production.
The Department is limited on the number of out-of-state permits they can sell so they want to increase that number, probably between 10 and 20, and make those extra permits available specifically for wounded soldiers, Miller said.
The $320 fee for the permit would be the same but the outfitter, group or sponsor usually pay the fee for the wounded soldier.