Though there's been no action on the Recreational Marine Employment Act since last spring, the National Marine Manufacturers Association is hopeful it can still become law before Congress adjourns.
"I think it does have a chance. We certainly are working with that in mind," said Monita Fontaine, vice president of government relations for the NMMA. Being an election year, she said, the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is up for re-election, so it makes matters more unpredictable.
The bill is on the full House calendar, but has yet to go through committee review in the Senate.
"We're meeting with members of Congress with regularity," she said. "Our hope is to have the bill passed favorably out of the House." Fontaine and her group have worked extensively with Majority Leader (John) Boehner, R-Ohio, who was the chairman of the committee that moved the bill.
The Recreational Marine Employment Act, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla. last February, clarifies that workers in the recreational marine industry are exempt from the Longshore Act. This means that marine-related employers are not required to provide duplicative insurance coverage. Today they must abide by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, and still provide state and workers' compensation protections.
The NMMA says employers could save close to $100,000 a year if the bill passes.
Today, any boat builder, boatyard or marina that handles any boat 65 feet in length or longer must abide by the Longshore Act. But boats have become larger since this act was passed, and more recreational marine businesses are adversely affected.
The House Education and Workforce Committee passed the bill in April 2005 along party lines.
"It is seen, unfortunately, as something that the Republicans support and the Democrats don't and the unions have been very aggressive in portraying it as an anti-worker bill, so we're constantly having to correct the misinformation," Fontaine said.
Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., introduced it in the Senate in April 2005, but no action has been taken. Fontaine said it may have been hurt in that body because it was only introduced with one sponsor, a Republican, and no Democrats have publicly supported it.
This bill was first introduced in 2002, and again in 2003.
Fontaine said about 10,000 bills are introduced in any Congressional session, and only about 400 will become law.