Cheers and Jeers for Legislative Session
As the Washington State Legislature comes to an abrupt close at the end of April, let’s pause to celebrate the good and bad times of what’s transpired thus far in 2019. Cue the cheers and jeers!
Cheers: Jon Snyder, Governor Inslee’s policy advisor on the state’s $28 billion outdoor recreation economy, reached out to outdoor recreation economy sectors to ensure that they were tracking a new tax on outdoor gear that costs more than $200. With 2,121 bills introduced this year, keeping tabs on them all take is an impossible feat. This 0.25 percent tax on outdoor clothing (think REI and/or Fisheries Supply merchandise) appears dead.
Jeers: Governor Inslee’s Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) Commission vote in the 11th hour in Spokane to return commercial gillnets to the main stem of the Columbia River. Over half of the state’s 240,000 registered boats are used for fishing all or some of the time. The timing could not have been more bizarre given that these nets created barriers for salmon trying to get to the ocean while struggling orca whale populations are looking for a meal.
Cheers: Senators Christine Rolfes, Kevin Van De Wege, and Jesse Salomon for hanging tough on not giving up on the priority that commercial gillnetters should be bought out, similar to tobacco farmers in North Carolina. Washington and Oregon are the last two holdouts of this type of fishing.
Jeers: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) appeared to be dug in on a new policy that treats existing marinas like new marinas when they go through a permitting process, which is commonplace any time improvements occur. As NMFS tells it, mitigation is needed for updates because driving marina pile can disrupt jeopardized ecosystems. As marina owners see it, they should receive gold starts for their proactive behavior.
Cheers: A big kudos to WDFW Director Kelly Susewind for speaking at the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW) joint lobby day on March 24. Even more, Director Suseswind keynoted the Big Tent Coalition’s beer and pizza party in Olympia on March 18. Director Susewind showcased premier WDFW sites around the state and shared his love of hunting and fishing for the two respective crowds.
Jeers: Unfortunately, the boat ramp at Point No Point continues to drag on. There is a core group of recreational fishing advocates staying focused on its completion. Time will tell on this one.
Cheers: The Senate put $5 million in their capital budget to remove derelict vessels. Don’t forget that boaters already tax themselves $3 every registration to remove abandoned boats. As far as I can tell, boaters are the only user group that voluntarily asks to be taxed. Not to mention, the $2 tax/registration fee to fund important invasive species prevention. Even with the $750,000 from boaters for derelict vessel removals, this program is woefully underfunded.
Jeers: The House of Representatives put forward their own budget and only put $1 million in their framework for derelict vessels. If you remember last month’s column, let the dogs-and-cats fight of budget negotiations commence.
Cheers: Each month, a core group of boating advocates meet under the guise of the Washington Boating Alliance in Tacoma. If you would like to learn about the latest boating issue coming down the slough, drop me a line (email@example.com) and I will send you the agenda. Department leaders from the various state agencies that regulate boating attended as well as RBAW, Northwest Yacht Brokers Association, and NMTA volunteer leaders.
Cheers: The American Boating Congress (ABC) is coming up, which means industry representatives and Boat U.S. staff will “boat into” Washington, D.C., from May 13 to 15. The focus of this event is to share with lawmakers that boating means business and to build relationships with those who represents us in the nation’s capital. You can bet that at the top of my list during my meetings will be the aforementioned NMFS guidance and recreational fishing issues. Ethanol guidelines always receive attention, too.
Cheers: The city of Kenmore’s Mayor David Baker and Kenmore’s D.C. lobbyist will join NMTA for these meetings. Mayor Baker never misses ABC, and this year is no different. Speaking of Kenmore, their slough races are alive and strong. They occurred in March and brought the community together around the water.
Cheers: The National Marine Manufactures Association released their economic-impact information. Washington has moved up to sixth in the country (from 20th). Washington’s boating now accounts for $6.9 billion of economic impact. Keep in mind that just a few short years ago that total was $3.5 billion.
Cheers: Congrats to Seth Muir, who is the new head of Sail Sand Point in Magnuson Park. Muir led Salish Sea Expeditions and joined Sail Sand Point in March. He is a real leader in Olympia and made his mark in Olympia during the NMTA-RBAW Lobby Day.
Whew! Ok, that is all for now. As always, see you on the sometimes choppy political waters of Olympia.