Missouri

Josh Hawley will take up McCaskill’s duck boat safety bill after he takes her seat

Sen. Claire McCaskill suggested Wednesday that Republican Josh Hawley should take up her duck boat safety legislation after he takes her seat in January.

He’s taking her advice.

A few hours after The Kansas City Star asked Hawley about McCaskill’s comments, the incoming Republican senator announced that he would do just that and reintroduce her bill in the next session of Congress.

McCaskill’s bill is a response to the tragedy that took place at Table Rock Lake in July when 17 people died after the amphibious vehicle they were riding for a tour sank in severe weather.

A federal grand jury has indicted the duck boat’s captain on charges of misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty in connection with the incident.

McCaskill’s bill would enact many of the safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2002 after its investigation of a 1999 duck boat incident that killed 13 people near Hot Springs, Ark.

The bill has not advanced and would be left in limbo after the Missouri Democrat’s ouster from the Senate.

“There are others that are interested in it because there are duck boat accidents, as you know, in other states besides just Missouri,” McCaskill told The Star on Wednesday.

“So I’m hoping that my colleagues from other states will be serious about carrying it forward and maybe Senator-elect Hawley will take a look at it. I know he has certainly made an effort to make this an issue.”

Hawley, who defeated McCaskill in the Senate race earlier this month, had launched an investigation into the matter in his role as state attorney general. Hawley announced late Wednesday that he would take up his Democratic rival’s legislation three weeks after the end of a bitter campaign.

“The NTSB’s recommendations to improve duck boat safety should have been implemented long ago. Senator McCaskill was right to introduce legislation to codify these recommendations, and I will introduce legislation in the new Congress to do the same,” Hawley said in a press release after The Star’s initial inquiry.

“The investigations into the tragedy on Table Rock Lake must continue. But as they do, Congress must act to ensure tragedies like this one do not happen again — in our state, or anywhere else.”

The bill would require the removal of overhead canopies that the NTSB found posed a drowning risk to passengers of a sinking boat and require passengers to wear personal flotation devices among other recommendations.

McCaskill’s office did not immediately respond to Hawley’s announcement that he had taken her advice. The senator had said earlier in the day that she had not spoken with Hawley about the issue.

The Missouri attorney general’s involvement in the case continues, said Mary Compton, communications director.

“Our civil lawsuit seeking an injunction against the unsafe operation of duck boats is pending in federal court and critical motions were argued on November 1. Our criminal investigation remains pending,” Compton said in a prepared statement.

Hawley’s decision to sponsor the bill puts him at odds with his fellow Missouri Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt, who has favored a more cautious approach when it comes to new regulations for the vehicles.

“I’d like to understand the problem before I propose a legislative solution,” Blunt said this month.

“There have been charges filed by the U.S. attorney’s office on this and again I think we need to get some final information on what failed to happen that passengers on the duck boat should expect to happen, and we’re not quite there yet.”

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