ABC: A pivotal event, now more than ever

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There might never be a better time to effect changes in public policy than this year with a friendly Congress and key issues impacting the marine industry on the table.

That makes the American Boating Congress (May 11-13 in Washington) a must-attend event for manufacturers, dealers, marina operators, marine trade association leaders and industry suppliers.

For more than 20 years, ABC has been the industry’s annual “blitz” on Capitol Hill. This year’s schedule boasts some excellent changes and additions that should attract record attendance from every industry sector.

An all-new Stakeholders Networking Reception will open ABC on Monday evening (May 11). “All-New” continues Tuesday with a first-ever series of Breakout Sessions, allowing attendees to select the ones that fit their areas of interest.

Some breakouts will feature dealer-specific subjects, others will boast panel discussions or an expert speaker/leader. In addition, every major issue of industry concern will have a session complete with briefing materials and talking point handouts.

Enter the new “Topical Team” Hill visits. Attendees can choose to join a team that will be covering a particular topic of interest - the ethanol debacle, fishing regulatory issues, Sport Fish & Boating Trust Fund, among others. They’ll visit lawmakers who are key to those issues.

Never lobbied in Washington before? No problem. There will be a general session on “Effective Lobbying Techniques.” However, I can tell you from having attended ABC for many years, there’s really no mystery to it. In fact, if you’re from a congressman’s district it virtually guarantees you a meeting with your representative or a key staff member. The same is true for your two senators. But ABC is making it even easier and more productive this year.

The truth is lobbyists can’t do it alone. The underlying success of ABC is harnessing the power of constituency to advocate on the Hill. Connecting with constituents is a primary desire of every lawmaker. So relating an issue in person can really determine whether a lawmaker will understand and get on board. You are the most effective advocate and ABC makes it easy.

As the 114th Congress gets into high gear, the marine industry has some big issues that need to be addressed. Here are some:

Ethanol: It’s prime time to get ethanol off our customers’ backs. Several bills are pending that would revised the nation’s broken Renewable Fuel Standard and end the threat that millions of marine, auto and small engines will be destroyed by higher grades of ethanol.

Saltwater fishing: The Magnuson-Steven Act that regulates all saltwater fishing is up for reauthorization and it’s past time that the nation’s recreational anglers receive equal importance in future fishery policies. Heretofore, commercial fishing has been the principal beneficiary of fishing regulations at the expense of recreational fishermen. Reauthorization give the boating and fishing industries the opportunity to get significant policy changes and balance the scales.

Boating trust fund: This is huge for boating. Officially known as the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund, it is up for reauthorization this spring. Funded by federal gas tax and excise taxes on some fishing equipment, the fund pours $600 million a year into programs ranging from boating access facilities to state fishery management, restoration and expansion. The huge dollar benefit is something the industry could never do on its own. We must make sure it’s reauthorized with full funding.

Coast Guard: Funding for the Coast Guard is up for reauthorization. Among the many benefits to boating, there is a critical need for updating boat building standards as well as establishing a multi-year funding bill instead of the current 12-month temporary system.

Biscayne National Park: Boating access in Florida’s Biscayne Bay has become a poster child for struggles everywhere against expanded restrictions like no-fishing zones and no-combustion-engine areas as a “management tool.” In general, access to waterways has slipped in recent years and proponents are vigorously pushing for much more. The industry must push back hard when it comes to denying boaters and anglers reasonable access no matter where it is.

Bottom line: For a dealer, attending ABC with others from your state is the best way to update your lawmakers on issues that impact your business. Best of all, the NMMA’s Washington staff will even arrange your meetings for you. How easy is that? All you have to do is register and attend. Go to and click on “Government.”

ABC is coordinated by NMMA’s Washington staff with more than 25 other organizations co-sponsoring this year’s event. They are: Association of Marina Industries ♦ BoatU.S. ♦ Boating Industry ♦ Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston ♦ Florida Yacht Brokers Association ♦ Lake Erie Marine Trades Association ♦ Marine Retailers Association of the Americas ♦ Megayacht News ♦ Michigan Boating Industries Association ♦ National Boating Federation ♦ National Marine Distributors Association ♦ National Marine Lenders Association ♦ National Marine Manufacturers Association ♦ National Marine Manufacturers Association South Carolina ♦ National Safe Boating Council ♦ National Yacht Broker Certification Program ♦ Northwest Marine Trade Association ♦ Sail America ♦ Sea Scouts - Boy Scouts ♦ States Organization for Boating Access ♦ U.S Superyacht Association ♦ Water Sports Industry Association ♦ Wisconsin Marine Association ♦ Yacht Brokers Association of America ♦ Yachtcloser


Maine Boatbuilders Show opens tomorrow

In its second year in a new location, the Maine Boatbuilders Show opens tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Portland Sports Complex. Sail and powerboats, plus engines and accessories will all be on display.