Boating industry gathers in D.C.
Hundreds of industry stakeholders met in the nation’s capitol last week to hear from policymakers and deliver boating’s message to legislators.
The annual American Boating Congress is the industry’s two-day event focused on public policy and its impact on recreational boating. ABC is organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and 31 co-hosts, including Boating Industry.
Several government officials and experts addressed the gathering about key issues facing the industry. They highlighted the importance of contacting elected officials to share the issues that are important to marine businesses.
Senators and representatives need to hear from their constituents, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D- W.V.
“We don’t have the answers up here,” he said. “We rely on you all.”
Manchin, who owns part of a 54-foot Sea Ray docked in Washington, said he is concerned about several issues related to boating, most notably E15 and the government’s mounting debt.
He has voted against every subsidy for ethanol and joined other senators in signing a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency raising concerns about using it for fuel, he said.
“This is crazy, using food products to make fuel,” he added.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined Manchin in voicing concerns about government spending and the impact on future generations. As a representative of a district that includes Evinrude’s engine facility in Sturtevant, Wis., Ryan said he knows firsthand the jobs a robust boating industry can create.
Rear Adm. William “Dean” Lee, Deputy For Operations Policy & Capabilities for the U.S. Coast Guard also addressed ABC on regulatory issues, including life jackets, model year and mandatory education.
On model year, Lee said he’s happy that MRAA and NMMA have formed their own model-year agreement. That agreement is now going through the rulemaking process at the Coast Guard and will be open for comment when it is officially published.
“Our position is that we really don’t care,” Lee said. “It’s not a safety issue.”
On mandatory life jacket use and national boater education requirements, Lee said there is no change in current policy, although he did note that his personal belief is that every boater should take some sort of training before being allowed to drive a boat.
Other speakers at the event included author and journalist Kenneth T. Walsh, who spoke on presidential politics; Deerin Babb-Brott, director of the National Ocean Council; and Frank Peterson, president and CEO of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.
Following the conference portion of ABC, industry representatives made more than 250 visits to Senate and House offices to deliver the boating message on issues including E15, tax reform, water access and more.