ABC 2019 plans to hit the ground running on policy with new Congress
Following a victory in 2018 with the enactment of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018 (Modern Fish Act), the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) doesn’t intend to slow down in its legislative advocacy for the recreational boating industry.
The NMMA will really get things going for its 2019 policy agenda during the 2019 American Boating Congress in Washington D.C., May 13-15. ABC 2019 is organized by NMMA and co-hosted by a multitude of other industry organizations and associations.
The annual event offers attendees the opportunity to ensure the voices of the marine industry are heard on Capitol Hill. “Attendees are really the industry’s the most effective advocates,” NMMA Vice President of Federal and Legal Affairs Nicole Vasilaros said. “There really isn’t more influence on a Congress member than a visit with an employer or employee from that member’s district.”
With the large number of new faces across Congress after the midterm elections, Vasilaros said the 2019 ABC is the perfect launch point to begin work on some new issues.
“When you have a new Congress, it is a unique opportunity to come to Washington and meet with your elected officials in Congress,” Vasilaros said. “The focus this year is welcoming folks to the boating industry and making sure we’re a top priority for them in Congress.”
Vasilaros said that once someone attends ABC, they really understand the benefits and impact their attendance has on the industry. “All of the efforts from lobbying to the education that happen during ABC decide the industry’s agenda and priorities for at least the next two years,” Vasilaros added.
This year’s ABC will offer a variety of education and workshop sessions to attendees, as well as various speaker sessions, opportunities to meet with legislators and networking opportunities.
“We’re switching up the programming a bit this year for more engaging panel discussions to put focus on the regulatory side of things and not just the legislative side,” Vasilaros said.
The 2019 ABC will also put a focus on the marine industry’s young professionals and offer specific networking events and education sessions geared toward that group to ensure their voices are heard.
In the spotlight during ABC 2019
NMMA recently wrapped up and released the results of its first industry policy survey, offering marine industry professionals a chance to tell the association what matters most to them.
With more than 1,500 respondents, the survey indicated that the industry’s top issues are: Ethanol and fuel (E15), recreational fishing, tax, trade, and boating safety.
In 2018, NMMA dedicated significant attention and resources to these issues, resulting in key legislative and regulatory victories for the industry.
On the fuel policy front, NMMA helped introduce legislation to protect consumers from misfuelling with E15 and expand the on-road use of alternative biofuels, such as biobutanol. The industry also celebrated the signing of the Modern Fish Act into law, putting the country on the path toward responsibly expanding access for the nation’s 11 million saltwater anglers. NMMA also played a critical role in advancing top safety priorities in the U.S. Coast Guard reauthorization bill.
“The forward momentum on some of the top issues gives us an opportunity to begin working on some new issues,” Vasilaros said. “Infrastructure has become quite the talk of the town in D.C. and we need to make sure that recreational activities like boating are thought of in those conversations.”
Vasilaros said that trade will continue to be at the forefront of discussions during 2019, as trade tariffs continue to loom and strain on the marine industry. Workforce and how legislation may be able to address the industry’s workforce issues and close the gap in workforce needs will also continue to be at the forefront of NMMA’s efforts.
On a new front, the topic of conservation has risen to the top of NMMA’s policy agenda for 2019. “We’ve always supported conservation efforts, but there’s currently so much on the conservation front like endangered species, red tide and beyond that we need to start addressing and focusing on,” Vasilaros said.
“At the end of the day we’re not letting the foot off the pedal on any of our policy fronts for our industry,” Vasilaros said. “We need to make sure the work we’re doing in D.C. continues across to all 50 states.”
For the latest updated schedule and locations of specific events, visit www.nmma.org/government/abc.