As summer winds down, so are most of the state legislatures. Six states remain in session, one is in special session, and sixteen are on recess. In late July, the recreational boating industry celebrated a major win in Virginia with the establishment of an outdoor recreation office. Fifteen states now have either offices or task forces dedicated to expanding the outdoor recreation economy, which is growing faster than the economy as a whole.
Ranging from highly active to monitoring, on any day NMMA’s state advocacy team is engaging on multiple issues across all 50 states. Below is a comprehensive accounting of the association’s state advocacy efforts in the past month.
- Wake Surfing Regulations – The growing popularity of wake surfing has caused wake boats to be one of the top selling categories in the industry, but its popularity has also drawn controversy as the number of boats on the water have increased.
- Oregon – Governor Kate Brown signed HB2352 into law, which creates a towed watersports program. The bill creates a $124 biannual boating permit for wake boat operators along a 17 mile stretch of the Willamette River. Operators will also have to take a towing safety education course every two years. After two infractions, such as failure to have a spotter, the skipper would be banned from operating any boat anywhere in the state for a year, and the boat cannot be used for towing.
- Minnesota – Chanhassen City Council has continually received requests regarding wake surfing limitations or no wake zones with high water levels. The Council has indicated any actions taken will go through a public process to adjust the emergency no wake water level but is not considering additional regulations at this time. Other lake associations across the state have brought up restrictions for wake boats or wake surfing and NMMA is actively monitoring the situation.
- Plastic Packaging Reduction – Requirements to reduce single-use packaging are on the rise across the United States. These types of programs can be aggressive and disruptive to the boating industry.
- California – California’s SB 54/AB 1080 would target manufacturers and retailers, requiring them to substantially reduce reliance on “single-use” plastics, as well as the 10 most commonly found plastic litter in the state within 10 years. These bills require manufacturers to make all single-use packaging and the 10 most-littered single-use plastics out of recyclable or compostable materials by the year 2030. It also sets targets for increasing recycling of plastic packaging and certain single-use plastic products over the next decade, reaching a 75 percent recycling rate in 2030. If manufacturers don’t hit those recycling rate targets, they could be barred from selling the packaging or single-use products in California.
- Boating Access and Infrastructure – Boating access can take many forms, from building and maintaining boat ramps to instituting laws that apply reasonable restrictions where needed. This may include efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) to directing adequate funds for infrastructure, channel markers, and dredging.
- Georgia – On July 31, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources held a stakeholder meeting at the coastal headquarters in Brunswick, GA. The meeting summarized over 240 responses from citizens during the public comment period. While the DNR was unable to specify what its recommendation to the board would be regarding permits, pump-out logs, and setback distances, they were able to inform stakeholders that the fee structure associated with the proposed permit program has already been removed. A second public comment period is now being planned, with an anticipated date in early fall 2019.
- Fishing – Fishing legislation and regulations are highly impactful to the boating industry. NMMA monitors fishing bills to make sure that they do not negatively affecting recreational boating.
- North Carolina – On May 7, the Senate passed the Marine Fisheries Reforms bill S554, legislation attempting to shift policymaking authority for coastal fisheries resources management from the Marine Fisheries Commission to the Marine Fisheries Division of the Department of Environmental Quality. NMMA opposes this shift in authority. This is diametrically inconsistent with the way that wildlife resources have historically been managed in the state. As of August 8, this bill has not advanced in the house and has not received any time on the house floor in the North Carolina legislature.
- Outdoor Recreation – Outdoor recreation offices play a critical role in increasing outdoor recreation participation by working with local communities to improve infrastructure, coordinating recreation efforts statewide, and promoting the benefits of engaging in outdoor recreation among the citizens of their state.
- California –This year California is doubling down on its efforts to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation. AB1111, which creates the office, passed through the Assembly in late May and has been referred to Senate Committees for review. The legislature has been on summer recess and reconvened Aug 12.
- Virginia - Governor Ralph Northam created an Office of Outdoor Recreation on July 18. This action represents a sincere effort by the state to commit to strengthening an already crucial part of the Old Dominion’s economy and increasing collaboration and investment in this vital industry.
- Workforce Development Funding
- Massachusetts – Governor Charlie Baker signed recently signed the state’s budget into law, which includes a renewal for workforce funding to the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association (MMTA). NMMA submitted testimony supporting this effort and the work that MMTA continues to do. The MMTA will be using this money to increase their collaboration with members and educational partners to expand the enrollment numbers at schools and keep the graduate placement percentages as high as possible.
- Wake Surfing
- Wisconsin, Michigan, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Minnesota – Homeowner’s associations and local governments have attempted in the past two years to restrict or ban wake surfing in a few lakes. Given the general sense of concern about the use of wake boats, these states merit close attention.
- Boater Education
- New York – In a major step toward implementing mandatory boating safety education in all states, New York recently enacted Brianna’s Law. It will expand its mandate from those who are 27 and younger in 2021 to include all boaters by the year 2024. The safety card never expires, costs $29.50, and is eight hours long.
- Massachusetts – Senate Bill 1734 would repeal sales tax on boats built or rebuilt within the state of Massachusetts, which currently has the highest sales tax rate in New England. This bill has not seen any action at this time but is still an active bill.
- Right to Repair Legislation
- Seven states have introduced – but failed to pass—bills that would require manufacturers to provide detailed information and access to tools needed to repair products, including tractors, cars and electronics. Although no mention has been made in testimony or bill language regarding marine products, NMMA is closely watching for future efforts to introduce these bills.
- Prop Guards
- New York - A bill requiring prop guards on any boat used to instruct children under 18 years old was effectively passed by the Senate, and the Assembly version is awaiting further action, which could happen if the legislature reconvenes prior to the end of the year. However, it would be very unusual for the legislature to reconvene before the session ends. Parliamentary procedures will cause the Senate bill to be kicked back to the Parks Committee if it is not passed by December 31, 2019. Both bills remain alive until the two-year session ends on December 31, 2020.
Associations, Boards and Meetings
- Michigan Legislative Fly-In – NMMA will continue to raise its state political advocacy to a new level on September 11, 2019 with the inaugural Michigan political fly-in. To be held in state’s capitol in Lansing, the event will focus on highlighting its priorities of engaging with the state’s outdoor recreational office, addressing aquatic invasive species, and workforce development programs. To see the draft agenda and register, please click here.
- Big Sugar Bush Lake (Minnesota) Homeowners Association Meeting – NMMA will present at the Big Sugar Bush Lake Homeowners Association meeting regarding wake boats and wake surfing on August 31, 2019.
- National Association of State Boating Administrators (NASBLA) Annual Conference - NMMA will lead a panel discussion on the impact of boating clubs and fractional ownership on the boating industry, boat operators, and law enforcement during the meeting, which will be held September 30 - October 2.
- Outdoor Recreation Roundtable – ORR, which was founded by NMMA and other recreation industry association, has reinstated a state government relations committee that will focus the political and economic power of outdoor recreation on political issues that benefit the outdoors. The committee held one of its first in-person meetings in Washington, DC last week.