Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, described his proposal as a tool for economic development.
"I can't think of a better way to help get government out of the way of economic development and tourism along Georgia's coast," he said. "Repealing this provision would definitely send a message to the boating community that Georgia's coast is open for business."
Boaters who travel north and south along the Intracoastal Waterway on their way to vacation in Florida or farther south can be attractive tourists, according to Ralph Talbott, yacht broker in St. Marys, Ga. Many are retirees interested in staying longer than a month.
"Our state has a black eye with cruising boaters who make the trip south and north each season," he wrote in an email to Spencer. "Many simply pass by Georgia, and of course, their dollars pass by Georgia as well."
The General Assembly enacted the current law limiting liveaboards in 1992 primarily to target derelict houseboats on the Altamaha River that were a source of pollution because they couldn't motor to a marina to pump out sewage-holding tanks. The worst simply discharged the human waste into the water.
Marina owners in Savannah petitioned the Department of Natural Resources to relax the prohibition, and in August it revised its rules to allow long-term living on board for boaters who request it in writing and keep records on when their holding tanks are pumped out. The revised rule only permits long-term occupation in marinas with pump-out facilities and the willingness to keep the paperwork. Some in the industry estimate just three participate.
Talbott says the paperwork requirement still gives boaters the impression they're not welcome in Georgia.
DNR spokeswoman Lauren Curry said she couldn't offer a comment on Spencer's proposal until it's introduced.
He said he would be open to wording that would continue to block habitation on non-navigable houseboats.