Minnesota Passes Mandatory Boater Education Legislation

Program to equip boaters with the knowledge and skills to create safer waterways

A bill, establishing a new Mandatory Boater Education Program, has been passed in Minnesota. The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA) is delighted to celebrate the passage because a similar effort failed in the final hours in Minnesota’s 2022 legislative session.

This landmark legislation emphasizes the importance of safe boating practices and highlights Minnesota’s dedication to creating a safer overall boating community and supporting the sustainable growth of the state’s $6.9 billion recreational boating economy. Here’s an overview of the specifics and the implications you need to know as a Minnesotan.

Throughout Minnesota’s 2022 legislative session, the MRAA, National Marine Retailers Association, Water Sports Industry Association and a handful of local dealers and lake associations, attempted to pass mandatory boater safety legislation. Ultimately, and despite bi-partisan support from in both the Minnesota House and Senate, the legislation did not pass as the clock ran out during final negotiations. Despite this failure, this same coalition came back again this year and was successful in passing boater education legislation.

Championed by Senators Hawj, Morrison and Hoffman in the Senate and Representatives Koegel, Brand, Myers and Rehm in the House, this legislation will equip boaters with the knowledge and skills to safely navigate our waters. By fostering a culture of education and awareness, we can promote safety and peace of mind to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities, so customers keep boating and return to your dealership for their next boat.

While the legislation was introduced as two stand-alone bills, HF 949 in the House and SF 553 in the Senate, the appropriate language was included in HF 2310, the Environment, Natural Resources, Climate and Energy Omnibus Finance bill – a package of many smaller bills that ultimately provides money to many of Minnesota’s state agencies. On May 24, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed HF 2310. The MRAA sent a letter to Walz and integral Senators and Representatives, thanking them for their leadership and contribution to making Minnesota’s waterways safer.

A series of important requirements and provisions are designed to enhance boater safety and education — effective July 1, 2025. Here are some key aspects of the legislation:

  1. Gradual Implementation: A phased-in approach to boater education will use a “born after date.” Individuals born after the dates below are now required to take a boater education course and receive their watercraft operator’s permit before operating a watercraft on Minnesota waters.
    1. effective July 1, 2025, born on or after July 1, 2004;
    2. effective July 1, 2026, born on or after July 1, 2000;
    3. effective July 1, 2027, born on or after July 1, 1996; and
    4. effective July 1, 2028, born on or after July 1, 1987.
  2. National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved Boater Education Course: The legislation mandates that the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources must create a water-safety course that is NASBLA approved and available online. This ensures that Minnesota’s course will be similar to other states and allow reciprocity with other States who also have NASBLA approved courses.
  3. Renters Required to Obtain Temporary Certificate: Beginning July 1, 2025, visitors and residents who wish to rent a boat for use in Minnesota must now take a short online examination. After passing the test, it will remain valid for 180 days.
  4. Operator Exemptions: Exemptions include anyone who possesses a valid license issued by the United States Coast Guard, is not a resident of the state and temporarily using the waters of the state for a period of less than 60 days, and most importantly for MRAA members, anyone operating under a dealer license.

Minnesota now aligns with 36 other states that also require some form of mandatory boater education. Minnesota – the Land of 10,000 lakes, and more than 800,000 registered boats — trailing only Florida – has taken an important step in fostering a safer overall boating environment. By prioritizing education and equipping boaters with the comprehension needed to navigate our waterways safely, we can protect lives, conserve our environment and strengthen the economic vitality of our lakeside communities. We applaud the leaders within the state of Minnesota for taking this bold step towards fostering a culture of boating safety through education. Let us embrace this legislation and come together to ensure that our beloved pastime remains a joyous experience for generations to come.

Chad Tokowicz, MRAA Government Relations Manager in blue Dealer Week shirt

If you have any questions about this legislation, email me at chad@mraa.com.