Massachusetts kayakers... please read

-- Last Updated: Oct-21-09 7:15 PM EST --

If you live in Massachusetts (or paddle there), note that the perennial, badly conceived kayak bill has made significant progress in the state legislature, and could well become law soon.

The news is here...

... and instructions for finding and contacting your Massachusetts House Rep are here...

If you do write, some suggestions...

Please be temperate and measured in your communication with Reps. No libertarian polemics. No rudeness. Restrained language. Neat and clean.

There are a zillion logical reasons this bill is a bad idea, explained in that thread -- use a couple of them. But not everybody should overwhelm them with every argument verbatim.

Emphasize that you are as interested as anybody in safe kayaking, in saving lives, but this bill is not an effective way to achieve that goal. Education and outreach are much better.

These arguments have been thoroughly thought through and bounced off many people. Or, come up with your own, well thought-through reasons. But again, no generic libertarian, anti-nanny-state arguments.

Bear in mind, the sponsors are successful politicians, very committed and very persistent. It will take a lot of effective persuasion to turn this around.

Thanks. --David.

It’s a Plot!
Maybe even a conspiracy.

Y’all are going to have to learn to paddle canoes or succumb to the nanny-state!

Hey I wrote my rep already. Hate to see all y’all trying to work a single blade. That’d hurt.

You’re Making It Way Complicated…

– Last Updated: Oct-21-09 8:52 PM EST –

Most folks never contact their legislators about anything. When a few calls come in, they begin to take note and figure it's the tip of the iceberg. All one has to do is to pick the phone and say, as a constituent of so and so, I oppose the bill because it will NOT promote kayak safety as intended. At best, you'll get an aide (unless you're truly a big shot, a community mover/shaker, and/or contributor to the elected official). But that's good enough because the aide tracks that stuff for the legislator. The aide will ask for you name and address. You can bet s/he will check to see if you vote. If you don't have a good voting record, they tend to not pay as much attention.

To make it easier for the caller and the aide and/or legislator. Post your argument on the website. The caller can point the aide to the site. This serves a couple of good things. First, it takes the onus of the caller to explain too much. Two, it referencing a MA based, membership, there is recognition of implicit/explicit political clout that goes with any organized group.

If there is worry about jeopardizing the 501(c)(3) status of the organization, you don't have to worry about it 'cause you would have to spend 5% or more of the budget to get into the realm of "lobbying." In fact, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court has actually relaxed the restrictions on non-profit advocacy/lobbying this year (though I will admit to not having brushed up on it yet).

Finally, I doubt for most members of the House and Senate, there is no hard cored commitment to this type of bill. The question is what is pushing, if at all, the leadership to support this. Is there an economic interest lobbying for this? If not, a bunch of calls to the legislators should be enough to kill the bill. The legislators will not want to go against voting constituents in their districts, UNLESS someone in leadership is pressing them to "do so or else..."

In speaking of "leadership", Murray is located inland so she probably has no direct connections to kayaking. Speaker Deleo is located in Winthrop ("by the sea") where folks often launch kayaks and where there is actually a kayak business (Belle Island Kayaks). Find some of his constituents in Winthrop to put the heat on. As Speaker, he can kill this (again, UNLESS there is serious economic interest involved that would make Murray want to support this bill... Highly doubtful.).

"Power analysis" (i.e. who is pushing the issue and why? Who has the juice, Who is the position to counter and can be pressured? Who is connected to the counterforce?) is a fundamental tool of organizing and political advocacy (for those who cant' just "buy off" an elected official by economic means).


Massachusetts kay bill - the real story?

– Last Updated: Oct-21-09 10:53 PM EST –

Ummm... Murray is coastal -- Plymouth and Barnstable, incuding Bourne, Falmouth and Sandwich.

In fact, the sponsors I know of are Straus, Gomes (now gone) and O'Leary, all from the Cape. You might say that it's because the two fatal incidents happened there, but maybe there's more.

Good to ask what's the hook for most legislators. Can it really be saving lives? I doubt it -- they've seen the arguments and they know what they are doing will not actually save many lives, if any, and may actually cost some. Is it serving grieving constituents -- doubt that too; there are just three families involved here -- all white middle class, but so what.

Frankly, I think they feel there are significant political points to be scored in the Cape area at the expense of kayakers. And this could be just the beginning.

Fill in the blanks. Just my speculation. --David.


– Last Updated: Oct-22-09 5:53 AM EST –

that makes it even easier to pressure her 'cause y'all got to have some kayakers down that way... How about cold turkery paddlers (or whatever they call themselves).

Pressure the leadership. Unless there is a serious economic power involved, the leadership folks aren't going to go against a lot of constituents who are against something. You get 10-15 phone calls in to their offices, the aides will be telling their bosses that there's "a problem" with some "kayaking bill." Kill it with DeLeo and then go back at it with Murray. I seriously doubt there is deep and wide support for this bill among legislators. It's just too esoteric.


Can’t help but…

– Last Updated: Oct-22-09 8:21 AM EST –

I'm over here in NY so have no weight in this one. But, if I were a useful voice, following is what I'd go after hardest.

The part that says "anyone who holds themselves to be a kayak instructor or..." or "Any course of kayak instruction shall include, but not be limited to; (i) the safety procedures appropriate to the level of kayak paddling difficulty; and (ii) wet exit training, which training shall be conducted prior to a student operating a kayak unsupervised or in water deeper than 5 feet."

This is the stuff that, to me, is most likely to put those who run tours out of business. It's too open-ended. Even telling a group how to use a paddle could become training if things got into a lawsuit, since there is no mention of "a formal course of training sanctioned by the ACA" or some such.

For the heck of it (it's this or start turning all the extra potatoes into soup), I looked for photos or listings of kayak stuff on the tourism site copyrighted by the Office of Tourism in Massachustess. A bunch look to be outside of the sponsors' districts, most would be challenged by the law as written. (Greater Boston) (North of Boston and Merrimack Valley)
(Go down to Water Sports and click on the statewide link for the kayaking places that Tourism felt were worth mentioning. Or you can find them by region under Outdoor Activities for each of the regions on the map to the right)

Good luck all.

If it goes through…
On my annual visit, I’ll just leave the kayaks at home here in FREE NC, and just bring my canoe up there.



Unless You’re Coming Up To "Coach…"
this proposed legislation has little if any impact on you.


forgot that your issue is to paddle “PFD free or die…”


I go by the US Coast Guard rules, and
always have it with me.

I also go by common sense, and wear it when the conditions warrant it, and don’t when they don’t.

Even the USCA uses common sense, and leaves the wearing of it up to the individual race/event organizers.

One of the several reasons I left that foolish state was because big brother just loved to control our lives.

There are plenty of other states where I can spend my money in restaurants, stores, gas stations, motels, etc- I wonder if big brother reads P-net ???



Be aware that type V PFD’s
Aren’t accepted by this proposed law even though they are accepted by the Coast Guard.

re:MA kayak law
yup, rescue vests would be illegal in massachuesetts under this law. And it wouldn’t matter if you were running class 4 with a guide, you’d still need to do a wet exit upon leaving the beach. Safety is good, but this bill won’t do it.


Are these legislators even kayakers?

– Last Updated: Oct-22-09 1:06 PM EST –

Hmmmm a roll in a Type that going to happen?

Kayak is defined as being propelled by a double blade..guess there could be a future demand for short single blade sticks.

And the ACA is requiring First Aid and CPR for their instructors now...

Got a reply from my Rep

– Last Updated: Oct-27-09 6:17 PM EST –

Well the email addy is someone else at the state house. An aide I presume. But in response to my argument that it was a poorly written bill which would cause far more problems than it might resolve, he wrote

"Dear Tom,

I concur…

I will oppose it if it comes to the House floor and will support your point of view.

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns"

I believe that's the first time I've ever been concurred with. ;-)

David, if you or your crew want a name to go with that, email me.


Excellent analysis. nm

Put the “Pressure” On…
strange. The bill has been referred to the Senate committee on ethics and rules. I don’t think there is an “ethical” issue here. Must be a “rules” change to move the bill?

Regardless, since the bill is there, hit the committee’s membership roster, get the list of senators, and press with phone calls. Nothing fancy (the aide won’t know/care anyway except to get the bill #.)

Once you reach the senator’s office, ask to speak to an aide. When aide is on, “Hi I’m so and so, a consituent of the senator’s. Please tell the senator that I am OPPOSED to the kayak bill - House 2281 - that has been referred to the ethics/rules committee. If the senator wants to talk more about it, I am available to talk at #.”

If you have done this before, you’ll likely be surprised at how quick it is. This will take all of 2 minutes after you reach an aide. (There is an outside chance the senator and/or aide may call you back. You may also want to follow up later. In which case, GET the aide’s name.)


PS. Tracking Bills.

– Last Updated: Oct-29-09 10:34 AM EST –

Go to this site:

you can punch it the specific house or senate bill #. Generally, most of us won't know the numbers (unless we are diehard involved in the issue or a paid lobbyist...). You can put in the key word -- "kayak" -- and get to the bill any way.

If you want to find out what's up each year with kayak bills, just punch in "kayak" in the seach phrase every jan/feb and the active bills under consideration will pop up.


it’s got to be in your favor
that it’s the same old flawed bill without changes

that means …

  1. your objections still apply and you don’t have to come up with new arguments
  2. you can point out that it’s the same old flawed bill! :wink:

interesting, oversight maybe?
no type V… oversight maybe? or they just don’t understand coast guard specifications? obviously not boaters…

doesn’t the label on a rescue vest say something about meeting the requirements for a type III pfd…

i can see lawsuits over this already if this legislation goes into effect… as written…

oh well, that’s government for you…

very ambigious legislation
does a canoe become a kayak when paddled with a double blade?

does a kayak become a canoe when paddled with a single blade?

i just love their definitions as stated in the proposed legislation…

no type V pfd’s either…