Legislative leaders say this could be the year Iowa law is changed so the blood alcohol standard for judging drunken boating is identical to drunken driving. Current law charges a person piloting a boat with "operating while intoxicated" if their blood alcohol level is .10, while vehicle drivers are judged by the tougher .08 standard.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy says there’s no disagreement over changing the blood alcohol level, the hold-up has been defining what it means to "operate" a boat. "Under current law, for example, a house boat tethered to (an) island with its engine off would be considered boating while intoxicated," McCarthy says.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, sugggests there’s been another stumbling block to a drunken boating bill. "The big argument that’s been is the impact it has on operating a motor vehicle, how it affects your insurance and some of those issues because if there’s a person sitting out on a pond up in Lake Okoboji and he’s fishing and drinking beer and gets picked up, it’s much different than a guy who’s driving a high-powered speed boat across Lake Okoboji," Murphy says, "so I think that’s one of the concerns that our members have."
But Murphy says the drunken boating bill is a priority. "We want to get a bill that everybody here can agree to and get passed and signed by the governor hopefully before the end of this year," Murphy says.
Click on the audio link below to listen to Democratic legislative leaders discuss the issue in a question-and-answer session with reporters. The first voice is that of House Speaker Murphy. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs makes a brief comment, then House Democratic Leader McCarthy is the last voice on the audio file.