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NMMA recaps first 100 days of the 116th Congress

Yesterday marked the one hundredth day of the 116th U.S. Congress, capping a hard charging stretch of legislative and regulatory action in Washington, D.C. NMMA’s strategic advocacy focus paid dividends in the first 100 days – engaging with the new Congress and the administration, while seizing on a range of victories and fighting off harmful measures impacting the recreational boating industry.

Highlights of the first 100 days:

  • Meetings with 75 percent of new members of Congress
  • 13 members of Congress joined the Congressional Boating Caucus (CBC) and one CBC economic briefing event
  • Seven advocacy events at NMMA consumer boat shows
  • One new policy brochure outlining seven industry priorities
  • One major conservation and access bill passed Congress and signed into law
  • Introduction of four recreational boating and fishing bills
  • Boating and fishing leaders testified at two Congressional and one agency hearing
  • Two cabinet level meetings with boating executives
  • 12 federal funding priorities presented to Congress
  • $83,000 raised for BoatPAC
  • Three trade bills supported

With more than 100 new members of Congress, NMMA hit the ground running to build relationships and educate the incoming class, meeting with 75 percent of the freshman members since the beginning on 2019. Additionally, NMMA recruited more than a dozen members to join the bipartisan Congressional Boating Caucus – which saw its ranks reduced by nearly 30 members at the end of last year – and now consists of 113 members. CBC’s co-chairs for the 116th Congress are four longstanding champions of the industry: Representative Lois Frankel (D- FL-21), Representative Jackie Walorski (R- IN-02), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).

To help kick off the new Congress, NMMA, marine manufacturers, and members of the CBC – including Representative Jackie Walorski, Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI-02), Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03), Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), and Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN-02) – assembled for a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss the economic impact of the recreational boating industry. The event – titled “Boating Industry Briefing: Jobs, Businesses, and the Economy” – was held on February 27 and also served as the official release of NMMA’s latest economic data infographics and its 2019 policy agenda.

Representatives from NMMA member companies – including Kevin Grodzki of Brunswick, David Slikkers of Tiara Yachts, Bill Yeargin of Correct Craft, and Joan Maxwell of Regulator Marine – discussed issues facing the marine manufacturing industry and conveyed that boating means business in the U.S.

BoatPAC continues to be a key component of the industry’s advocacy toolbox, helping to forge new and lasting relationships with lawmakers. BoatPAC recently reported that several recreational boating industry stakeholders have already stepped up to support its goal of raising $250,000 in 2019. To date, BoatPAC has raised $83,000, and the team is hitting the road to bolster the PAC’s roster, including recent visits to South Carolina members Sportman Boats, Scout Boats, and Zodiac.

While the year started off under the cloud of a government shutdown, NMMA forged ahead with an aggressive advocacy agenda. NMMA expanded its boat show advocacy tour for the 2019 season, with briefing events at seven shows that were attended by 300 industry stakeholders and over 30 key national, state, and local government officials. The tour – titled “Propelling Our Industry Forward” – was part of NMMA’s strategic plan to engage membership and the industry in advocacy and leverage boat shows to highlight recreational boating’s economic impact.

At the Miami International Boat Show, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and representatives of the recreational boating and fishing community – led by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) – signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which seeks to develop and expand a framework of cooperation for recreational fishing and boating conducted within federal marine waters, including national marine sanctuaries. The partnership between NOAA and the recreational fishing and boating community remains steadfast and will help efforts to fully implement the Modern Fish Act, signed into law in December.

Meetings with top ranking administration officials – including two members of President Trump’s Cabinet – occurred regularly in the first part of 2019. From infrastructure and access to trade and recreational fisheries, boating is being heard by the highest level in the U.S. government.

In late February, CBC member Representative David Joyce (R-OH-14) – along with fellow caucus members Representative Joyce Beatty, Representative Lois Frankel, and Representative Jackie Walorski – introduced a bipartisan resolution that designates the week of June 1, 2019 through June 9, 2019 as National Fishing and Boating Week. The measure formally recognizes and commends the recreational boating community for its numerous contributions to the U.S. economy, the well-being of citizens, and responsible environmental stewardship of water resources. NMMA plans to host a series of events during National Fishing and Boating Week and expects a similar resolution to be introduced in the Senate in the coming days.

In March, President Trump signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (Dingell Act) into law – a major victory for the outdoor recreation industry. This critical legislation permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a measure that will responsibly enhance access to recreational fishing on our nation’s public lands and waters.

Outdoor recreation remains to be a top priority for the Department of Interior, with the signing of two recreation enhancing secretarial orders already this year: one to establish a departmental task force to facilitate and prioritize the implementation of the Dingell Act and another requiring the Bureau of Land Management to prioritize fishing and recreation access when land exchanges are under consideration. Both moves were celebrated by the outdoor recreation community and will help ensure a continued seat at the table for the boating industry.

The global trade situation continues to ebb and flow and cause serious challenges for the recreational boating industry, with input costs continuing to skyrocket and export sales drastically reduced. NMMA held a roundtable discussion during the Miami International Boat Show to discuss the tariff impact, timeline for resolutions, and opportunities moving forward.

While some recent developments are encouraging – including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA or New NAFTA), the administration’s decision to delay increasing Section 301 tariffs on the third list of Chinese products, and negotiations with Japan, the European Union, and the United Kingdom – more work is needed to ensure the industry can continue to grow.

Fortunately, Congress has showed an interest in stepping in and recently introduced three pieces of legislation intended to curb the effects of the global trade war, which NMMA supports: Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, Trade Security Act of 2019, and Import Tax Relief Act of 2019.

Earlier this month, NMMA – along with a coalition of stakeholder partners – sent a letter to President Trump, urging him to refrain from imposing auto tariffs using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. If the administration moves forward with Section 232 tariffs on automobiles, NMMA and its coalition partners are concerned that vehicle parts from Japan, Europe, and other nations – including those used in marine and other engine equipment – will also be subjected to tariffs, further exacerbating the industry impact.

Discussion in Washington continues to focus on a major infrastructure legislative initiative. NMMA, along with the outdoor recreation community, has been at the table for infrastructure conversations and is promoting inclusion of a “Recreation Title” to address infrastructure needs, such as reforming federal dredging prioritization, providing adequate boating and fishing facilities, more effectively combating aquatic invasive species, addressing the maintenance backlog, and improving broadband access. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in March to examine opportunities to improve access, infrastructure, and permitting for outdoor recreation.” NMMA applauded the bipartisan hearing and submitted comments on the important dialogue between access and recreation.

Later in the month, NMMA urged the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to consider the important role recreation plays in supporting the U.S. economy and incorporate solutions that address the needs of blue and green infrastructure in the infrastructure legislation the committee is developing.

With Congress set to avoid another government shutdown and move funding packages expeditiously through the process, NMMA seized on the opportunity to support critical dollars for key federal programs. NMMA’s appropriations request for fiscal year 2020 (FY20) include:

  • Enhancing and maintaining the nation’s waterways;
  • Promoting innovative technology to improve on-the-water safety;
  • Identifying new revenue sources to increase access to and reduce user-conflicts on public waters;
  • Educating boaters about harmful misfuelling at their local gas stations; and
  • Helping restore vital ecosystems from the Florida Everglades to the Great Lakes.

NMMA board member Scott Deal, President and CEO of Florida-based Maverick Boat Group testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in late March to examine the need for increased federal investments in ocean technologies and fisheries. During the hearing – titled, "Our Blue Economy: Successes and Opportunities" – Deal outlined three basic tenants required to support the businesses and jobs behind the industry: updated and robust infrastructure, a clean and healthy environment, and sound fisheries management policy. Testifying before Congress is a critical component of advocacy and NMMA encourages others to participate in future opportunities.

With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moving forward with a proposal to authorize the year-round sale of E15 fuel, NMMA and its coalition and industry partners continue to fight against the expansion, while calling on EPA to, at the very least, provide enhanced consumer education.

Boating Caucus champions Representative Lois Frankel and Representative Austin Scott (R-GA-08) reintroduced bipartisan legislation in early February to more clearly define and label E15 ethanol blended gasoline at pumps and better protect consumers from misfuelling with E15. The bill – known as the Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act of 2019 – enjoys bipartisan support of eight members of Congress. Passing the Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act of 2019 is a top NMMA advocacy priority, and the association is spearheading efforts to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

NMMA is employing a dual pronged fuel policy approach—enlisting the support of Congress while directly engaging with the EPA on the harmful impacts of E15 and need for more robust consumer outreach. Boating United activists joined NMMA efforts by testifying at a recent EPA hearing in Ypsilanti, Michigan and sending nearly 1,000 comments to the agency on its proposed rulemaking for year-round E15 sale – and there’s still two weeks before the comment period closes. NMMA also submitted written comments to the rulemaking docket and took the lead in preparing joint industry stakeholder comments in opposition to E15 year-round sales.

Looking ahead, the schedule remains full for the administration, Congress, and NMMA, with the association’s 2019 American Boating Congress just around the corner. And NMMA looks forward to working with stakeholders to advance the industry’s advocacy priorities in the coming months.

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