The boating industry has many friends in Congress, according to chief lobbyists from the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Marine Retailers Association of America.
“One of the great things about boating is that boating is geographically dispersed and boat manufacturing is geographically dispersed,” says Scott Gudes, NMMA vice president of government relations. “There are a number of people who support our industry.”
Gudes, along with his MRAA counterpart Larry Innis, say there are several legislators who stand out as real champions for the industry, either pushing for passage of bills the boating industry likes, or killing unfavorable bills.
The following are senators and representatives NMMA and MRAA lobbyists say are friends of the boating industry:
In the Senate:
• Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced The Clean Boating Act of 2008 and was there repeatedly for the recreational marine industry throughout the legislative process.
• Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., helped introduced the Recreational Boating Act of 2007, an earlier version of the Clean Boating Act, and continued to support the industry throughout the process.
• Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., helped with the Clean Boating Act and “on just about every other issue,” says Gudes. He introduced the Recreational Boating Act with Martinez. He serves on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Subcommittee on National Parks, both of which deal with a number of issues important to the boating industry.
• Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been there for the boating industry on trade issues, such as wood imports. He is a senior member of the Appropriations, Agriculture and Rules Committees and is pushing for increasing energy production to reduce gas prices.
• Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was one of the first Republicans to get on board with the Clean Boating Act. Gudes says that was very important because it needed to be a bipartisan bill to ensure quick passage.
• Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., got energized on helping with the Clean Boating Act and pushed the bill through many meetings, according to Gudes. He also is involved with the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act.
• Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He’s helping with the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, which protects certain original designs.
• Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, both Democrats from Rhode Island, “have a real appreciation for boating,” says Gudes. They have supported the industry on several key bills — Clean Boating Act, Vessel Hull Design Protection Act and the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act.
• Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., is a sailboat owner and serves on several key committees: Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Environment and Public Works. “He was always there to help us, from Wallop-Breaux to the luxury tax,” says the MRAA’s Innis.
In the House:
• Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., sponsored the Recreational Boating Act, and helped introduce The Clean Boating Act of 2008.
• Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., also helped introduced the Clean Boating Act. “She was one of the strongest supporters of the Clean Boating Act,” says Innis. Miller’s family owns a marina, so she grew up in the marine industry, and has two boats of her own. Innis says that makes her keenly aware of issues that affect boating. “She has been there whenever we need her” he says.
• Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, represents a big boating district and is a ranking member of the Coast Guard subcommittee. “He’s been an amazing champion for us on the Clean Boating Act,” says Gudes. “He refused to take no for an answer and really pushed the Clean Boating Act in the House.” LaTourette was on Air Force One when President Bush signed The Clean Boating Act of 2008 into law.
• Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., chairs the Small Business Committee and was the original convener of hearing on Business Activity Tax Simplification Act.
• Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure and the Natural Resources committees and has been “a big friend” of the industry, says Gudes.
• Rep. James Oberstar, Democratic-Farmer-Labor- Minn., is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and helped get the Clean Boating Act through the committee. His committee also oversees the Wallop-Breaux Fund. “Oberstar has been a good friend for a long time,” says Innis.
• Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif. As vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, he helped push through the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act.
• Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairs the Judiciary Committee and allowed the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act to be heard and pushed through the committee process.
• Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., has been helpful on the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act and the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act.
• Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, is involved in water access issues. He is trying to preserve working waterfronts and was the first to include recreational boating in the definition of a working waterfront.
• Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., helped with the ethanol issue and getting an amendment passed that requires safety testing on engines before states can increase ethanol blends.
• Rep. John B. Shadegg, R-Ariz., also is involved on the ethanol issue. He is a boater who learned firsthand about ethanol problems on a boat, according to Gudes.
• Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., co-sponsored the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act.
• Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pa., is a freshman representative from Pennsylvania and a new member of the Boating Caucus. He was among the first to sign on to the Clean Boating Act, and he approached the NMMA about being a member of the Boating Caucus, instead of the other way around.
• Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., supports “just about everything we do,” says Dylan Jones, the NMMA’s water access counsel.
• Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., chairs the Rules Committee and authored a bill on cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields, which helps the marine industry in reclaiming waterfronts once used as industrial zones.
• Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., has been fighting to get dredging done on the Intracoastal Waterway. “He’s really pushing to get that dredged,” says Jones.
• Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., “has been a good friend of boating for a long time,” says Innis of the MRAA.
• Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J. “If you need help, he’s there,” says Innis.
• Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., is a close friend of Chuck Rowe at Indmar Products and “a strong supporter of the industry,” says Mat Dunn, manager of natural resources and economic policy for the NMMA.
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue.