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Government Reach? Some WA Residents Now Face $86 Fine For Not Wearing Life Jackets on Rivers

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"This Council thinks it's everybody's mom," said one Councilwoman who voted against the measure.

Supporters call it public safety, critics call it big government. But whatever it is, it's now the law.

People in King County, Washington (which encompasses Seattle) can now be fined $86 for not wearing a life vest while boating, swimming, or even floating on local rivers. The County Council passed the controversial personal flotation ordinance Monday by one vote.

"This Council thinks it's everybody's mom," said Councilwoman Kathy Lambert who voted against the measure. Those in support of the new rule were prompted by concerns that area waterways would be particularly dangerous this summer due to excessive mountain snowpack. Rivers in the area laid claim to 17 drowning deaths between 2005 and 2009.

"We are looking at a potentially deadly situation," said Councilman Larry Phillips who voted in favor of the bill.

Opponents who spoke before the Council said that an already-stretched-thin staff of sheriff's deputies had better things to do than to write tickets for people on waterways, and would be better off focusing on people engaging in dangerous behavior.

Still, the local sheriff said she supports the measure, which will be in effect until October 1.

Violators would reportedly get a warning first.

“This proposal will help save lives,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told KING-TV back in early June. “The wearing of life jackets is as essential for swimmers and boaters as helmets for cyclists and seatbelts for drivers.”

What do you think? Is this another example of government reach run amok? Or, is this just commonsense?

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