A new Washington voice for MRAA

William Higgins recently came on board as the public policy manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. Before joining MRAA, Higgins worked in both the U.S. House and Senate and most recently worked for a consulting firm on state and local issues.

Boating Industry talked to him about his role and some of his goals for MRAA.

What interested you in coming to work in the boating industry?

Higgins: I have some prior experience working on boating issues at my prior job, but I’ve really just been a lifetime boater. I grew up in Florida, so both lakes and the coast were both readily available. It’s an exciting opportunity to work in an industry I actually care about and have some real ties to.

What are some of the key issues you’re going to be working on?

We’re going to pursue anything we can do to push forward the [Sportfish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund] reauthorization as it pertains to positive impacts on the boating industry.

We’re going to support the favorable use of money from the Water Resources Reform & Development Act, specifically the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. In last year’s bill, they actually set aside 10 percent that was going to be allocated to small harbors. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to decide how they’re going to implement that, so we want to be part of the conversation and put ourselves in a position to help dictate the conversation.

Magnuson Stevens is going to be a big deal. … And I think the aquatic invasive species issue is really going to come to the forefront this year. You’re going to see a lot of different people say quite a bit about it.

We want to support the reform to the [Renewable Fuel Standard] and we’re working with a number of other industries. We recently got behind the Toomey-Feinstein bill to reform the corn ethanol mandate.

There have been rumblings regarding the repeal of the LIFO (“last in first out”) inventory accounting method. Much like the ethanol issue, MRAA has joined onto a multi-industry coalition to oppose any efforts to repeal it.

What are your impressions of the industry so far?

Any time you get thrown into all these new issues, you get a little overwhelmed, but it’s all things I’m genuinely interested in. Everyone that I’ve met has been extremely helpful in the industry… the people we work with in the boating industry here in D.C., whether it be NMMA, the Sportfishing Association, BoatUS.

I am actually physically within NMMA’s office, and it’s definitely been a positive experience being here. I think we can gain more from presenting a united front and we can really work together more effectively to accomplish our legislative goals.

Higgins can be reached at william@mraa.com or (202) 737-9779 x502.

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