Bad times are good times for getting legislation

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We may be in bad economic times, but these are very good times for local marine trade associations (MTAs) to be going after desired legislation and regulatory changes in their respective states. You might say that these days -- “The moon is in the Seventh House.” (I have no idea what that really means). But it could refer to circumstances on state levels that make successfully seeking positive legislation a good bet. Simply put, because of the current economic debacle, state lawmakers appear more receptive than ever to any policy changes that could spur on economic turnaround. The same can be said for regulatory agencies that, in the past, may have ignored boating industry needs.

The key is to frame the legislation or regulatory changes you’re after as (1) saving jobs and helping to create new jobs; and (2) as stimulating an economic turnaround. There are already some excellent examples:

In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist just signed four economic-development bills designed to “help create jobs, encourage economic growth and improve the standard of living for Florida’s families.” One of those bills makes positive changes in the sales and use tax on boats. HB No. 7031 - Economic Development - allows non-residents who purchase a boat in Florida, or bring a boat into Florida for repair or alteration, to remain in the state 180 days before becoming liable for the sales and use tax. The old law was 90 days and all the MTAs in Florida sought this change. As the Governor’s office put it: “Allowing boat owners and their guests to remain in Florida waters will stimulate Florida’s marine industry, as well as stimulate businesses that support the marine industry.”

When it comes to successfully dealing with regulatory agencies, Ohio is a good example. The Boating Associations of Ohio (BAO) has just wrapped up a major change with the Dept. of Transportation by which dealers can now obtain a single annual permit for a single annual fee to haul a variety boats on the highways (instead of a permit for each boat.) The argument for change was: “Reducing these costs for dealers will save jobs and small businesses.”

In Alaska, although they used existing lemon law as a base, the dealers recently got passed a landmark dealer agreement bill. They argued that the legislation was necessary to keep dealers healthy and able to provide good paying jobs in their businesses.

Even on the national level, helping marina owners stay alive on Lake Cumberland, Ky., has been keyed to economic growth. Legislation has been introduced by Reps. Rogers and Whitfield because, “Scenic Lake Cumberland has been the hub of economic development in our area of southern Kentucky for years," they noted. “And during tough financial times, we need to do all that we can to protect small businesses and help spur economic growth.” The bill will suspend lease payments for marina owners until higher water levels are restored and reimburse the businesses for losses in revenue, costs of relocating on Lake Cumberland and interest payments on loans undertaken as a result of low water levels brought about by ongoing dam repair projects.

It’s a great time for MTAs to analyze what they need their lawmakers to do to benefit their members and go after it.

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