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Eight gifts during Hanukkah, please.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, also known as “Festival of Lights," will begin tonight at sunset and be observed for eight days and nights. Specifically, the festival is marked by the lighting of the Menorah’s eight candles, one each night of the holiday progressing to eight on the final night. Many also observe this holiday by giving a gift, particularly to their children, on each of the nights.

Following the Hanukkah observance, then, here are eight gifts I’d like to see either Congress or our marine industry present to all of us, regardless of age, for Hanukkah:

1. Rein in regulation: The number of pages in the Federal Register -- where all new regs must be published -- jumped 18 percent in 2010. Regulatory agency budgets have increased 16 percent in the last three years and they’re churning out new regs at a record pace. Why, this past July alone, regulators proposed a whopping 379 new rules that will cost an estimated $9.5 billion. The SBA says the cost to meet regs for small businesses is 36 percent higher than for large corporations, or about $10,585 per employee. Enough!

2. Amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act: The reauthorization of this act in 2006 has created a nightmare for America’s fisherman and, therefore, the boating, fishing and related industries. As a result, saltwater fisheries have been arbitrarily closed to recreational anglers (not always to commercial fisherman) based on data and studies that even the National Science Foundation has labeled lame. In his inaugural address, President Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” That sure hasn’t happened for our fisheries. Come on, Congress, just mandate it!

3. Mandatory life jacket wear: End the push by the Coast Guard to mandate everyone wear life jackets on boats under 21 feet (Coast Guard’s preference) or 18 feet (NBSAC’s ill-conceived compromise). Simple logic says this is best handled by the states; any such federal mandate could not cover all the nation’s waterways; all states would have to adopt (primarily through legislation) and enforce such a mandate; and the nation’s boaters overwhelmingly oppose it! If the Coast Guard won’t read the tea leaves, then Congress make it clear this proposal should be dry-docked.

4. Get the IRS off small business’s back: It took an act of Congress to get the IRS off our backs on the 1099 fiasco IRS slipped into the health care reform bill – the one nobody read until after it passed, remember? Well, for example, starting this year, IRS will require credit card companies to track the total dollar amount that individual merchants get from card transactions and report the total to IRS and the merchants on a 1099-K. For small businesses, it’s another administrative burden to separately account for different transactions and to break it down monthly to reconcile the 1099-Ks. Most small businesses are ill prepared to tackle this accounting, and they shouldn’t have to.

5. Don’t screw the Gulf: The TV crews are gone, but the work of repairing the environmental and economic damage from the BP Horizon disaster of 2010 is far from over. Out of sight can’t be allowed to prevail here. Fines could range from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion and Congress has the power and the obligation to mandate that the majority of that money be allocated to restoration of the nation’s Gulf Coast. It will take big bucks and years to make things right and before politicians start trying to divert these funds, Congress should act to end any such a possibility.

6. Tax policies need reform: While other governments reform and simplify their tax systems, ours continues to grow more complex as new tax rules pour out. Clearly, taxes will continue to be a wild card for us in 2012. The dichotomy between raising taxes to address real deficit concerns vs. keeping taxes low to improve the economy will continue stimulating consumers and business owners fear and inaction. But the big picture aside, we know employers in 20 states will be paying higher federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes. Their states borrowed from Washington to pay unemployment benefits and have not repaid the borrowed sums. As a result, employers in those states cannot use the full credit for state unemployment taxes when figuring their FUTA liability. We need a drastic reform and simplification of our federal tax policies. Oh, and don’t appoint another super committee to do what all Congressional representatives were sent to do.

7. Let’s get on the same page: Our boating industry is highly fragmented, primarily because it’s made up of independent small businesses. For example, such a composition means no one segment has control over the customer’s whole boating experience. Segmentation also makes it tough to have a true shared vision. As a result, communication between segments is often lacking. That needs to change if boating is to grow again. And, a huge step in the right direction was taken with NMMA’s leadership last week at the Recreational Boating Summit in Chicago. It brought together boating segments that likely had never talked to each other. It established the need for all boating interests to become engaged in ways to grow boating again. It built some good momentum – that mo needs to be followed up, stimulated and enhanced.

8. End dealer agreement issues: And speaking of being on the same page, perhaps the contentiousness of dealer-manufacturer agreements has been around since the Jewish people rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem (the reason for the Hanukkah celebration). But, the boating industry had an unprecedented agreement in 2007 of major terms to be included in all dealer-manufacturer agreements. It didn’t happen as it should have, so groups like Texas turned to their legislature this year to mandate what everyone had agreed to do in the first place. It should never have been necessary to use political and financial capital to mandate what the industry said it would do. Dealer agreements should reflect those tenets and end any need to use resources for such legislative actions.

That’s my Hanukkah list – feel free to add your own.


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