Industry Wins with House Vote August 4, 2014

Legislation passed July 29 by the U.S. House of Representatives will bring a rare benefit to improve insurance coverage at lower cost to companies and their workers in the recreational boating industry. H.R. 3896 achieves this by amending the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act to provide a 70-433 simplified definition of recreational vessels for purposes of the Act. MIASF members and those of other marine trade associations have been working with legislators for 30 years to bring fairness and clarity to this issue. This development underscores the tenacity of the industry and results that can flow from Congress working in bipartisan fashion.

The intended benefits are clearly identified by Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz who introduced the legislation last January. “Put simply, this bill is about protecting jobs 70-441 while keeping workers covered. With 300-plus miles of inland waterways and 50,000 registered yachts, Fort Lauderdale is the yachting capital of the world,” she said. “In Broward County alone, there are over 90,000 jobs in the recreational marine industry. These jobs allow workers to buy homes, provide for their families and contribute significantly to local economies. In 1984 and in 2009 Congress intended to make sure these workers and families were covered. This bill keeps that promise.”

Co-sponsors and industry supporters of the bill included Representatives Lois Frankel, Ilieana Ros-Lehtinen, Patrick Murphy, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ted Deutsch and Frederica Wilson of Florida, Tom Petri of Wisconsin, and Duncan Hunter of California. Fort Lauderdale-based groups that support the legislation are American Boat Builders & Repairers Association, Florida Yacht Brokers Association, and U.S. Superyacht Association. Additional support comes from LIG Marine Managers (St. Petersburg, FL), Marine Trades Association of Maryland (Annapolis), National Marine Manufacturers Association (Chicago), Northwest Marine Trade Association (Seattle), and Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (Bristol).

“Members of Congress, especially Representative Wasserman Shultz as the principal sponsor in the House, deserve the credit for protecting every boatyard, marina and subcontractor in the country and their employees,” said Kristina Hebert, MIASF president, when the bill passed.

“The recreational marine industry is very fortunate to have champions in Congress on both sides of the isle and in both chambers,” said Duncan Smith, who advocated the legislative issue on behalf of several marine industry associations. “The next step is the Senate where we hope to have expedited consideration of the bill, enabling it to move possibly before the upcoming August recess, or shortly thereafter.”

In 2009, Congress passed Section 803 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which expanded an existing exception that allowed more recreational marine repair workers to receive workers’ compensation coverage under state law rather than under the Longshore Act. This was necessary because repair workers were simply not buying the more expensive Longshore policies and were thus left uncovered. Unfortunately, new regulations were issued in 2011 that adopted a definition of a recreational vessel that was far more complicated and onerous than the existing law. In doing so, this new regulatory definition ran counter to what Congress intended.

H.R. 3896, named “The Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Clarification Act,” establishes a workable definition for a recreational vessel. It restores the intent of Congress in the original 2009 enactment to get coverage for these workers under less expensive state workers’ compensation insurance policies.

And that, in marine and related circles, is a classic definition of the proverbial “win-win.”

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Marine Industries Association of South Florida. 221 SW 3rd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. Phone: 954.524.2733