American Boating Congress gives attendees a chance to discuss issues directly with D.C. lawmakers
Members of the boating industry often are their own most effective lobbyists, and the annual American Boating Congress might be the best way to bring matters of concern directly to federal lawmakers who can help as the industry recovers from the recession.
Sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the 31st annual ABC is set for May 4-5 in Washington, D.C. The event provides an avenue for discussing current and upcoming legislation that affects the industry, as well as a chance to meet with the members of Congress who can influence that legislation.
There are many new faces in Congress this year. Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in the November elections and Democrats saw their Senate majority reduced. The 112th Congress includes 87 Republican freshmen and nine Democratic freshmen. About half of the new GOP freshmen are backed by the Tea Party movement and are prepared to aggressively cut federal spending as lawmakers struggle to bring the federal deficit under control.
It's for this reason that Capitol Hill visits are a critical component of ABC. Scheduled for May 5, they allow the industry to meet with senators, House members and their staffs to discuss problems and how marine businesses and the community are affected.
The NMMA schedules the Hill visits on behalf of ABC attendees, and visits can be made individually or with a group from the same state or community. NMMA staff can provide briefing documents with talking points and will be available to assist attendees with issues specific to their businesses or states.
"Hill visits will be particularly important this year as NMMA members start building relationships with new members of Congress and their staffs, educating them on the importance of our industry to the U.S. economy," says Christine Pomorski, public relations manager for the NMMA's D.C. office. "These relationships will act as a strong foundation as we fight any onerous tax issues that may arise as new members of Congress seek new ways to increase revenue during these hard economic times."
The NMMA is continuing to build the Congressional Boating Caucus. It lost 35 members in the 2010 elections, which Pomorski says is not unusual. The NMMA formed the caucus in 1989 to be an advocate for the recreational marine industry.
The Senate Boating Caucus lost two members - Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. - because of retirements. No sitting Senate caucus member lost a 2010 election.
Three members of the House Boating Caucus were elected to the Senate - Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. - and they technically count as House caucus losses. They will need to rejoin the group after changing chambers. The House Boating Caucus lost 33 members, including its co-chairman, Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss.
On the agenda
A marine trades association luncheon is a highlight of the program on May 4. The luncheon will provide an opportunity for trade groups from around the country to discuss and share best practices on such regional/state matters as bottom paint, ethanol, invasive species and marina Clean Water Act permitting.
Later that afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency will present an update on the Clean Boating Act, briefing the industry on the status of efforts to establish boaters' best practices under the law. The EPA also will discuss water-quality problems of interest to boaters.
On May 5, the agenda is expected to include discussions of the NMMA's continuing effort to keep E15 out of the marketplace and the Wallop-Breaux Act, which is expected to be reauthorized during this Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. That action would reauthorize the Sport Fishing Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which provides money for access facilities and other fishing and boating programs. The NMMA is part of the Angling and Boating Alliance, a coalition of key groups advocating for Wallop-Breaux's reauthorization.
Also up for discussion will be Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers proposals to require that adults wear life jackets. The NMMA is working to ensure there will be ample time for feedback from stakeholder groups.
Registration, which runs through April 18, is $225; late registration costs $250 and is available through May 3. Rooms are blocked at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel for $249 a night. Overflow rooms are available at the Hotel George for $349 a night. Hotel reservations must be made by April 18.
For information, visit www.nmma.org and click on the "Government" button.
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue.