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Fight is on to keep Ohio waterway council

A proposal to eliminate the Ohio Waterway Safety Council is running into a storm of objections, while the industry’s political action committee BoatPAC unveiled a streamlined new website.

Boaters and the marine industry in Ohio were taken by surprise recently to learn the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had proposed eliminating the Waterway Safety Council. Without any advance notice or communication with its constituent base, the Department of Natural Resources told a Sunset Review Committee that the safety council isn’t necessary.

But boaters and the industry are saying no to that. That’s because the safety council is the stakeholders’ direct oversight of the Ohio Division of Watercraft’s policies and programs. That division conducts all boating programs in the Buckeye State. It’s totally funded by Ohio boaters through registration fees, a portion of the state’s gas tax and federal grants received under the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Safety Trust Fund that the marine industry constantly lobbies for in Washington.

The five members of the safety council come from boating groups and the industry. All have boating knowledge and experience and are from boating areas around the state. They review the boating programs and expenditures quarterly and make recommendations. Since the division is solely funded by boaters, the safety council’s oversight is a necessary connection between the constituents and the agency.

For full disclosure, I served on the Waterway Safety Council for 26 years, so I know well the role the council plays. The value of its oversight responsibilities and recommendations cannot be overstated. The testimony before the Sunset Review Committee that the Department of Natural Resources is “committed to maintaining the same level of communication and engagement between the Department and these valuable stakeholders” is kind of like picking Vladimir Putin for “Humanitarian of the Year.” Not even the current council members were informed.

Finally, groups all affiliated through the Boating Associations of Ohio are making their objection clear with actions including petitions started at the Cleveland Boat Show, letters of objection and communications to Ohio lawmakers via the association’s lobbyists in Columbus.

BoatPAC Streamlined

Speaking of lobbying efforts, BoatPAC just launched a great new streamlined website. If you’ve heard of, but really don’t know much about the industry’s BoatPAC, finding out has never been easier.

The new website is easier to navigate. It showcases BoatPAC's successes and details ways for everyone to be engaged. That includes marine dealers since BoatPAC is the single political action committee that represents the entire industry. And it couldn’t come at a better time. Here’s why:

The new website houses Election Center 2016. This will be your one-stop shop for information about this year's elections, registration dates, voting information, expert analysis and more. It will highlight key races to watch and provide a congressional scorecard to show you how members of Congress fare on boating issues.

Lastly, a feature called BoatPAC Insider will be a newsfeed providing special updates, guest blogs and more to help everyone learn about issues, candidates and how our industry could be affected by the elections. Let’s face it: if ever there was a key election year, this is the one.

Want to know more? From 11 a.m. to noon EST this Friday, you can join a webinar that will walk you through all that Election Center 2016 has to offer. Click here to register now.

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