"What's pretty significant is that in a Congress that's been so partisan, we have bipartisan support for boating," Scott Gudes, NMMA vice president of government relations, said this morning.
The Clean Boating Act of 2008, H.R. 5949, would fully and permanently restore a longstanding regulation that excludes recreational boaters and anglers from the federal and state permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act designed for land-based industrial facilities and ocean-going commercial ships. This exemption was overturned by a federal court in 2006 in a case focused exclusively on ballast water from commercial vessels.
Gudes says the legislation is a "good government solution to a looming administrative and legal crisis for boaters across America."
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., approved H.R. 5949 this week by voice vote. The bill will now go before the full House for a vote.
"Congress' work is far from over," said Gudes. "We now strongly urge the full House and the United States Senate-where identical legislation has 33 bipartisan sponsors-to quickly pass this legislation and send it to the President for signature into law well in advance of the September 2008 permitting deadline."
H.R. 5949 is identical to S. 2766, Senate legislation introduced by Senators Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. S. 2766 is pending before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, chaired by Boxer.
Gudes said the House intends to wait for the Senate to move forward with its version of the bill; it's hoped the Senate committee will take up S. 2766 next week.
Gudes said the industry needs to keep up the pressure to get the bill through Congress and signed by the president before September.
"We have to get them to understand we're up against a ticking clock," he said.