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Trade groups should encourage legislative caucuses

Taking a page from the National Marine Manufacturers Association playbook, state and local marine trade associations should be active in encouraging the formation of caucuses in state legislatures that are sensitive to pro-boating policies.

A good example is the Boating Associations of Ohio that is celebrating the formation of a Lake Erie Caucus in the Ohio General Assembly. Specifically, State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, announced the formation of a new bipartisan Lake Erie Caucus of lawmakers in January.

Sens. Gardner and Cafaro will serve as joint chairmen of the Senate caucus. They’re anticipating other members of the State Senate will join, particularly those who represent a portion of Ohio’s 235-mile Lake Erie shoreline.

In the Ohio House, Representatives Chris Redfern, D-Port Clinton, and Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, are the co-chairmen. Redfern is also the current chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and expects many members representing the broader Lake Erie watershed extending well into Ohio’s heartland will also join.

“A caucus that focuses on our interests is a major step forward,” says Ken Alvey, executive director of Boating Associations of Ohio and president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “As we’ve learned from NMMA’s success with the Congressional Boating Caucus in D.C., we’re convinced a state caucus can have a real influence on state policies and we’re grateful to Sens. Gardner and Cafaro and Representatives Redfern and Dovilla for their leadership.”

Sometimes something bad can be the trigger for good. The impetus for this caucus formation, and its initial concentration, is the environmental and economic impact of a serious algae bloom problem that has hit Lake Erie in the last couple of summers.

The caucus hasn’t wasted any time. More than a dozen lawmakers, along with interested parties from nine organizations and state agencies, attended the first caucus meeting. Gardner said he wants the caucus to generate “action plans" that will obtain money and/or establish policies instead of just informing and planning reports. Following the meeting, Dovilla said: "The challenges which face our Great Lake — from phosphorus runoff to Asian carp — are issues we must address as legislators to ensure we leave a vibrant lake to our children and grandchildren."

“While the immediate emphasis is dealing with the algae bloom, the long-term value of the caucus cannot be overstated,” Alvey says. “Lake Erie is Ohio’s greatest natural asset and is, unquestionably, the ‘mother lode’ for Ohio’s boating industry. Doing whatever we can to encourage and support a group of lawmakers that wants to provide influence and leadership is a very high priority and we anticipate a lot of positive things will happen in the future because it it.”

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