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Boating Politics Lightning Round

by Peter Schrappen

So, you think you keep up on boating politics, eh? Well, buckle up as I run through a myriad of issues with twists and turns that will surely jolt your senses. If the Kentucky Derby bills itself as the quickest two minutes in sports, then this On Watch is the zippiest five minutes you’ll find on the intersection of the marine and political realms. And we’re off!

Recapping the recent elections, Washington’s races went even bluer than what happened on the national front. On the national level, the Democrats picked up a whopping 40 seats in Congress, while Republicans picked up two seats in the Senate. You may recall that the federal government weighs in on ethanol policy, small-business tax issues, and recreational fishing legislation (like passing the Modern Fish Act, which is a top priority for boating groups).

Speaking of the federal government, I am headed to D.C. on December 17. Just as Northwest Yachting goes to print, I will have a face-to-face (rather shoulder-to-shoulder) meeting with NOAA’s head Chris Oliver. My goal is to better understand why so many hurdles are in place for marinas looking to improve their facilities. I only go to our nation’s capital for the most important issues, so look to more info in the February issue as to what has transpired.

One more federal issue that has boating implications is the No Discharge Zone regulation. There are two lawsuits filed that have a beef with the shoddy process followed to make Puget Sound the world’s largest No Discharge Zone.

Keep in mind that this regulation applies to boaters who have Type 1 and Type 2 Marine Sanitation Devices. In my eight years at the helm of the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) government affairs program, I found the process followed by Department of Ecology and the EPA left much to be desired (I’m being kind here). These lawsuits will shine a light on what I have seen first-hand. Stay tuned.

Looking a little closer to home as a reminder that all politics is local, the November elections brought a big upswing from the Democrats. In particular, the House Democrats moved their majority from 51 seats to 59 seats and Senate Democrats now have a 27-22 majority in the state legislature. Who cares about Olympia’s law of the land?

Well, if you are interested in how much your boating registration costs or how much boating access and fishing opportunity you have, it would behoove you to sit up straight and track what takes place during the legislative session, which commences on January 14 and will run 105 days if it ends on time. If you’re looking to poke around and better track pending legislation, familiarize yourself with leg.wa.gov and washingtonvotes.org.

As for boating priorities, I will be working the halls of the Capitol on a number of fronts. For one, Washington needs to better fund career and technical education. Second, there is simply not enough money in the derelict vessel program. Remember that boaters pay $3 per registration for this cause, so you probably have skin in the game. The Department of Natural Resources is looking to augment this fund with a one-time, $5 million ask to the legislature. We could use that $5 million and more.

Are you looking to learn more and participate first-hand in our republic? Think about attending the NMTA and Recreational Boating Association of Washington day in Olympia on February 11. The day is capped off with a reception. Email me for details (Peter@Nmta.net).

But wait, there’s more. One of the marquee can’t-miss boating events is the Washington Boating Alliance Leadership Summit on January 31. Within a tidy two-hour spell, you will leave satiated on the doings of the heartwarming boating programs plus a summary of the latest in boating trends and highlights. Attending this capstone experience also gets you complementary admission the Seattle Boat Show.

Along the lines of the Seattle Boat Show and career and technical education, do not miss the Career Fair at the Seattle Boat Show on January 28. Each year, about 30 companies look to fill approximately 150 openings in the marine world. No cost to attend, but bring your resume.

As Bob Hale, the former editor of the Waggoner Cruising Guide, told me after yesterday’s Washington Boating Alliance meeting, “Whew, I had no idea just how much is happening in the boating world (until I attended this meeting).” While I can’t get to every issue in a crisp On Watch column, I can hopefully pique your interest and encourage you to get involved.

At a minimum, boaters pay a lot of money to the government (at last count about $80 million in taxes and fees just for Washington boaters). If we aren’t paying attention to how this money is allocated, you can bet other interest groups are. It’s the squeak in the wheel that gets the grease, and it’s the assertive constituents that get their calls returned.

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