The Policy Positions listed were approved by the RBAW Board on February 2, 2017.
Please note that the Board may update this information frequently.
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March 2019 Report from State Lobbyist Doug Levy
March 19 Day in Olympia – a success! My thanks to Board President Bob Wise, Vice-President Steve Finney, Past President Wayne Gilham, and others of you who took part in our day in Olympia and joint legislative reception on March 19. I also have to hand out a special gold star to Cal Coie of the Clover Island Yacht Club in the Tri-Cities. He and his wife made the 4-hour trek to Olympia just for our reception! We had during-the-day meetings with nearly a dozen lawmakers including Senate Ways & Means Chair Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island/23rd Dist.), Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Chair Kevin Van de Wege (D-Sequim/24th Dist.), Senate Capital Budget negotiator Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake/13th Dist.), and House Environment & Energy Chair Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien/34th Dist.). We had several legislators at our evening reception as well – though it turned out we were on the same night as both a Columbia River Gorge event and one to celebrate women of the Legislature. Still, we waved a strong flag, made good and consistent points on our core issues, and demonstrated to lawmakers that recreational boaters are important players on numerous policy and budget items. Thanks to all who gave up their time and their day!
It’s always hazardous to write a serious report on April Fool’s Day – but here goes. As I draft this, the State Legislature is in the middle of issuing, hearing, and passing their three 2019-21 biennial budgets (Operating, Capital, Transportation) and rapidly approaching their final cutoff deadline for moving bills out of policy and fiscal committees (April 3 and April 9, respectively, for bills from one chamber to clear the committees in the other chamber). Less than 30 days remain in this 105-day Session, and there is little doubt that an all-Democratic majority will finish on time (the final day allowed for Regular Session is Sunday, April 28).
The budgets are generally very good for us in the recreational boating world. We ‘play’ most prevalently in the Capital Budget, and both the Senate- and House-released versions of the 2019-21 Capital Budget (Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 5134; Substitute House Bill 1102) include $17.8 million for the Boating Facilities Program (BFP), $2.6 million for Clean Vessel pump-out grants, and $2.2 million for Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIG). There are a few key differences:
There is not a ton for us to worry about on the Operating Budget side. I’m pleased to report that neither Senate or House Democrats picked up on an unsuccessful proposal the Governor attempted to place a new sales tax imposition on vehicle and vessel trade-ins (essentially a double tax, since vessels ultimately are taxed at final point of sale). One troublesome precedent in the Senate’s Operating Budget involves a $2 million diversion of monies from the snowmobile account, as detailed by the Governor’s Outdoor Recreation Policy Adviser Jon Snyder in an e-mail last week: “State Parks budget includes a $2 million raid on the snowmobile account—which can be perceived as a threat to all dedicated recreation accounts.”
The 2019-21 Transportation Budgets continues the work of a “Road Usage Charge” Task Force and continue the transportation infrastructure investments first funded under the 2015 “Connecting Washington” package. One thing we are working on is to meet with the Senate Transportation Chair (Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens/44th Dist.) with regard to his SSB 5971 on potential new revenues for transportation. It does not appear that the Chair’s bill transfers any of a 6-cent gas tax increase over to marine, off-road-vehicle, and snowmobile accounts. Though it is highly unlikely this bill will pass, we feel it’s important to emphasize the importance of this issue with Sen. Hobbs.
With that, a progress report on our Legislative Priority issues and other bills/items of interest:
Strong support for funding enhancements to the Derelict Vessel Removal Program (DVRP) and increased use of the Vessel Turn-In Incentive Program
See above – the Senate Capital Budget includes $5 million (Sec. 3283) to help the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) catch up on the costs of removing some of the biggest and most expensive vessels. The House Capital Budget has $1 million.
Support consensus recommendations from Orca Task Force, while opposing a $10 fee ‘opt-out’ fee on boaters and any ‘no-go’ zone that is not imposed on all vessels:
There is pretty good news to report on the pending Orca Task Force “vessel” bill – 2SSB 5577. Remember that a few months ago at this time, we were fending off full “No Go Zone” proposals and a new $10 fee on all boaters put forth by then-Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Islands/40th Dist.). Well, fast forward and neither the No-Go Zone, the new fee, nor Senator Ranker are anywhere to be found! The 2SSB 5577 primed for passage has passed the Senate 46-3 and has cleared a policy committee in the House and currently awaits a House Appropriations Committee hearing. As amended, 2SSB 5577 changes a 200-yard protective bubble around the Orcas to 300 yards – except with respect to vessels positioned behind the whales, which have to be at a 400-yard distance. The bill also includes a 7-knot ‘go-slow’ zone within one-half nautical mile of the whales when they are present. It’s fair to say that we still have some concerns about how all this will be enforced – one of the reasons we asked Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind to serve as a guest speaker at our Legislative Reception. WDFW has been provided with $1.3 million for enforcement work related to 5577 – and pledges it will work off a platform of education, awareness, and voluntary compliance.
Enact 2019-21 Capital Budget with Robust Funding Allocations for Recreational Boating and Outdoor
Recreation Grant Programs:
See above – and see a memo I’ve done comparing House and Senate versions of the 2019-21 Capital Budget. We’re in pretty good shape here, with a ‘to-do’ item around the derelict vessel removal funding discrepancy I’ve already referenced.
Oppose any legislation that may arise to exempt the Des Moines and Oak Harbor municipal marinas from state “Aquatic Land Lease” rent payments:
We did not see any legislation on this front at all – a good thing! We had seen bills brought forth in both 2017 and 2018 and headed them off.
Big Tent Outdoor Recreation Coalition/Outdoor Recreation Caucus:
RBAW supports the “Big Tent” Outdoor Recreation Coalition, an umbrella organization comprised of several dozen outdoor retailers, non-profits, and others that seek to ensure Washington State recognizes and maximizes economic, societal, tourism, and health benefits of outdoor recreation. Big Tent hosted a successful March 14 reception (50+ attendees) which some of you attended. Additionally, a note on a grant program the Big Tent had a central role in resurrecting a few years back: The “No Child Left Inside” program, which provides grants to organizations which host initiatives to get kids outdoors and away from video game controls! NCLI is at a $2 million level in the Senate and $1.5 million in the House – both an increase over the current $1 million level.
Road Usage Charge – Ensure There is a Plan for Accommodating Gas Tax-Related Funding Set-asides for recreational boating, off-road vehicle riding, and snowmobiling
No news to report, other than the fact that the “RUC’s” work will continue. As previously reported, when it comes to what happens with “Recreation Resource Account” money that is connected to the gas tax, RUC Members have established a ‘hold harmless’ approach.
Other issues of interest
HB 1849, revising lease terms for first-class un-platted tidelands: This is a technical fix bill brought forth by DNR, which we support. We had some prior heartburn with a section of the underlying bill that subjected new leases to whether the Department of Natural Resources “deems it to be in the best interests of the state.” That language was removed via a House Floor Amendment, and 1849 is now due to be voted out of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee on Tuesday.
SB 5918, requiring whale watching guidelines to be integrated into the boating safety and boating education curriculum: We joined State Parks in supporting 5918 but emphasized the need for the budget to include $250,000 to implement. The Senate budget does. A shout-out to Treasurer Loyd Walker, who did an excellent job of pointing out that the current boating safety program is virtually all federally funded and a bill like this needed to be ‘covered’ in the budget. 5918 awaits a vote out of the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.
SB 5613, concerning the authority of counties to vacate a county road that abuts on a body of water if the county road is hazardous or creates a significant risk to public safety: Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center/18th Dist.) re-introduced this bill first run in 2018. The bill unanimously passed out of the Senate as well as the House Local Government Committee and is now in the House Rules Committee. We’re agnostic on this bill, though some worry about the precedent it could set for closing off areas to outdoor recreators.
HB 1558, more broadly exempting non-profit and association groups that owned vessels from the watercraft excise tax: Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Shelton/35th Dist.), who is an avid boater, is the sponsor of this bill. It has ‘died.’
Study of what to do with copper-bottomed paint used on vessels: A study of what to do to reduce the use of copper in paint and in water bodies was a part of HB 2634 passed in 2018. The study being done by the Department of Ecology will be completed by September 2019 and will lead to some recommendations for the 2020 Legislature. As a reminder, 2634 permanently exempted wooden boats from any copper-bottomed-paint phase-out. With other boats, 2020 will tell us whether there should be alternatives to copper, some continuation, or a combination thereof. NMTA is leading this issue and working closely with Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles/24th Dist.) and the Department of Ecology. Rep. Chapman is highly motivated to ensure a positive solution to all this for boaters.
Work with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to assure reasonable mitigation requirements on marina renovations, construction, etc: NMTA has been playing a lead role on this one as well, with Vice President of Government Affairs Peter Schrappen convening a March 22 meeting that our RBAW President Bob Wise and others attended. We continue to have concerns over the level of mitigation that the Pacific Northwest region of NMFS is asking for, apparently without any statutory backing.
The State of Washington has unfairly saddled recreational boaters with an excise tax that is not collected in a similar manner from any other “users group.” Annual vessel registration fees include a tax equal to ½ of 1% of the market value of any recreational boat. These taxes are simply absorbed into the general fund of Washington State, and are in no way earmarked for improvements to boating infrastructure.
Other owners of recreational conveyances are not asked to pay a tax based on market value. For example, private aircraft pay a very small flat fee based entirely upon the type of aircraft. Excise taxes for aircraft are generally under $200 per year, and any private helicopter (regardless of value) pays a flat $90 renewal charge. A private helicopter worth $3-million pays a $90 excise tax, while the owner of a $3-million yacht would pay $15,000 annually.