By Anika Lanser
In 2005, the driving of a reckless boater in the Great South Bay critically injured three members of the Lieneck family and claimed the life of the family’s youngest, Brianna, at the age of 11. Ever since, Gina Lieneck, Brianna’s mother, has been fighting to implement Brianna’s Law, legislation that would require all boaters in the state of New York to complete an eight-hour safety course before maneuvering their boat on the water.
Presently, boaters born before May 1, 1996, are exempt from taking a safety course and new boat owners are given a 120-day grace period before they must take the course. This leaves two significant populations, older boaters who have been driving boats around New York waterways for decades and those who have barely owned a boat at all, who are not required to be informed about the rules, regulations, and overall boater safety before they use their boats. Although it may seem as though the population of newer boaters would be less informed, Lieneck notes that often times it is the older boaters who have forgotten many of the regulations and rules.
Brianna’s Law aims to change this and would require all boaters to take the safety course, regardless of age or length of boat ownership. It also requires that the safety course be approved by the Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The law provides a fiveyear phase-in for boat owners to become compliant with the new requirements.
The passage of the law through the New York State Assembly and Senate onto Governor Cuomo is largely due to the hard work and continued dedication of Gina Lieneck. Lieneck has seen the legislation through each phase and has secured the support of legislators who have, as a result of her advocacy, introduced the legislation into the Assembly and Senate in turn. Senator John E. Brooks, 8th District, sponsored the bill and worked with co-sponsors Senators Phil Boyle, Jamaal T. Bailey, Neil D. Breslin, David Carlucci and others to pass the legislation in the Senate. In an interview with CBS New York, Lieneck spoke about her motivation for continuing such a long battle to have the legislation passed. Lieneck said, “I can make a promise to her that I would make the waterways safer for other families, and make sure this never happens to them.”
Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre sponsored the bill in the State Assembly and advocated for its passing. In a press release announcing the passage of the bill Jean-Pierre spoke passionately about the impact the legislation will have. “Accidents happen whether on land or on water, but having knowledge of boating safety and navigation laws will help keep those from turning deadly. I’m so proud to have introduced Brianna’s Law because it will save lives by truly making New York’s waterways safer,” Jean-Pierre argued.
Speaker Carl Heastie also highlighted the importance of the bill. “Summer is coming, and more and more New Yorkers are heading to our lakes, rivers, and waterways. Requiring boaters to take safety classes before heading out on the water will help save lives and prevent accidents from Lake Erie to the Long Island Sound,” he said.
It has been a rollercoaster journey for the Brianna’s Law bill, with disappointment last summer when it passed the State Assembly on June 19, 2018, but failed to make a State Senate vote before the Legistlature session ended for the summer.
Now that the law has passed through the New York State Assembly and Senate, it can move forward to the desk of Governor Cuomo who CBS 6 Albany reports is expected to sign the legislation into action. Depending on Governor Cuomo, the legislation could take effect beginning as early as January 2020. Lieneck reflected on the process: “I just burst out in tears. I just couldn’t believe it because it’s been so many years.”
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