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NMMA holds American Boating Congress webinar on key issues

The National Marine Manufacturers Association held an hour-long webinar Wednesday to brief attendees on the five issues the group is focused on for this year’s American Boating Congress and unveiled a new app designed to make the May 5-7 event in Washington, D.C., easier and more accessible.

The first topic was the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which has received traction in the last few months following a report by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management. That panel is chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats president and co-founder Scott Deal.

“I will tell you, this is a hot issue right now,” NMMA legislative counsel Jeff Gabriel told webinar attendees.

Ethanol remains the NMMA’s top legislative issue on Capitol Hill, Nicole Vasilaros, the trade group’s director of regulatory and legal affairs, said during the call.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is the law of the land and it sets a hard-line mandate for how much renewable fuel must be in the overall supply,” Vasilaros said. “We’ve seen significant movement on this issue, particularly in the last few months.”

On another issue that has received overwhelming traction on Capitol Hill in the past few months, the Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed dropping the level of required ethanol in the fuel supply for 2014 for the first time ever. That proposal shows that “this might not be as workable and achievable as we once thought in 2005,” Vasilaros said.

The NMMA is equipping ABC attendees with photos of engines that have been corroded because of E15 use. “The photos have been very effective, and they’re going to be included in your packets when you go to D.C. At the end of the day, what we really need to impress upon Congress is … to make a long-term change,” Vasilaros said.

Attendees should ask members of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 1462, a comprehensive RFS reform bill, she said.

The Sport Fish Restoration Trust Fund is another topic of concern because the transportation bill, of which the fund is a part, is being reauthorized this spring or early summer, Gabriel said.

“Typically the state fisheries and boating industries receive anywhere from 15 percent to almost 50 percent of their operating budgets from this bill,” Gabriel said. “This is critical to the operation of fisheries, and boating access.”

Aquatic invasive species is the fourth topic, and it is a sticky one because the NMMA is asking attendees to request funding from the government for programs to thwart the spread of invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.

“These are lean times, and we know that asking for money is never easy, but having people understand the economic impact of our industry and the effects of invasive species on the economy and local communities, these are real dollars,” Vasilaros said.

The final topic was the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act, or BATSA, Gabriel said. That would codify the traditional view that Congress requires a business to have a physical presence in a state before that business can be subjected to a business activity tax.

“Because so many boat manufacturers conduct business across state lines, boat manufacturers and other businesses would continue to pay taxes where they really conduct business and earn income,” Gabriel said.

The app unveiled by the NMMA, available on iOS and Windows devices, includes a map, talking points and white papers, schedules that synch with calendars, a place to give instant feedback and social media sharing ability.

Co-hosts seek to drive home economic impact of boating at this year's American Boating Congress.

Co-hosts seek to drive home the economic impact of boating at this year's American Boating Congress.

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