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In pursuit of advantageous state legislation

If there’s anything we don’t do enough through our state marine trade associations, it’s pursuing favorable legislation. Sure we have a good track record of defending our interests against harmful bills. But that frequently causes us to forget we can and should be active in asking our lawmakers to initiate legislation that makes things better for us!

Moreover, while it might be assumed this current bad economy isn’t a good time to seek helpful changes in state laws, the MTAs in Florida or Indiana see it the other way. And, they’re right.

As you read this, the Florida legislature is likely passing two valuable boating issues. First, contained in a massive “jobs bill” (SB 1752) is a provision to cap the sales tax on boats at $18,000 (that’s a $300,000 sale). The Marine Industry Association of Florida has shown that many buyers above the $300,000 price-point buy outside Florida to avoid the sales tax. Capping the tax will mean both increased sales and more large boats being permanently harbored in Florida.

Like many other states, Florida’s number one issue this year is jobs with its record unemployment at 12.3 percent. “Our sales tax cap is a jobs issue,” says David Ray, executive director of the Marine Industry Association of Central Florida. “It will help yacht brokers and dealers handling larger boats while more boats permanently kept in Florida will increase jobs in our marinas and boat yards."

Second, bills in both the Florida House and Senate would confirm a constitutional amendment to evaluate boating facilities for property tax assessments on the basis of current use, as opposed to using a “highest and best use” criteria. The tax savings will be significant and a big push is on to get this through before the legislative session is slated to end tomorrow night.

In the Hoosier State, the Indiana Marine Trades Association’s pursuit of the “Save Indiana Summers” bill fell just short. Or did it? It’s true the bill did not get through the House as expected after easily passing in the Senate. But, according to IMTA’s Pat Casey (Casey’s Cove Marina), it’s not a loss at all. “It’s clear we came so close to passage,” Casey noted. “That the education organization opposing us now recognizes this issue will pass, likely in the next session, so they’re now saying they are going to initiate changes on their own. So, we still may see some real positives out of all this,” he added. The “Save Indiana Summers” bill would have mandated schools could not start before Labor Day.

The MTAs in both Indiana and Florida ably illustrate a pro-active philosophy of getting state government to legislate issues that will directly benefit boating. After all, we elect our representatives to, well, represent us. We should never shy away from making it clear to them that it means representing the interests of our businesses, our employees and our customers.

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