OIA Government Affairs updates

SNEWS begins regular legislative updates focusing on issues important to the outdoor industry. Inside, the House slashes funding promised in the Conservation Trust Fund, and the industry awaits something, anything from Gov. Leavitt that is meaningful.
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Setback for recreation funding

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) lobbying efforts suffered a setback when the House of Representatives failed to adequately fund the conservation spending category and the critical recreation programs formerly included in the Conservation Trust Fund (Title VIII, Conservation Spending Category).

In 2000, conservation, outdoor business, recreation, and other interests mounted an effort, via legislation called the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), to guarantee that revenues from off-shore oil drilling would be used to support conservation and recreation programs. CARA was overwhelmingly supported by the House of Representatives, receiving 315 votes. However, because House and Senate Interior Appropriations committee didn't want to lose control of the approval process for funds, it effectively de-railed the CARA effort by hammering out an agreement to provide $12 million over 6 years for these programs through the Appropriations process. This agreement was kept in FY 2001 and FY 2002; however, appropriators fell short by about $300 million last year, signaling erosion in commitment. The House bill this year shows clearly that the deal has been broken.

Overall, the House under-funded the Interior portion of the Conservation Trust Fund by $560 million – over one-third less than the $1.56 billion in the original deal. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) took the biggest hit. While Stateside LWCF was maintained at $98 million, FY 2002 levels, the proposed funding level is still shy $62 million of the President's proposed FY 2004 budget. Federal LWCF was marked down to its lowest level in almost 30 years at $87 million less than the president's proposal. As was the case in the administration's budget, the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery program (UPARR) was denied any funding, leaving the future of this important program in question.

 "We applaud efforts by Representatives Obey, D-Wis., and Dicks, D-Wash., to hold appropriators to their promise," said Myrna Johnson, vice president of government affairs for the OIA, "but are disappointed that other appropriators who were key to the 2000 deal have been noticeably absent in defense of this important program. Clearly, it is time to re-visit the CARA-lite deal, and work toward dedicated funding for these important programs."

SNEWS View: The deal is not totally dead yet. The Senate still has its version of the bill which we hear offers up a few pennies more than the House did. Certainly it is nothing to write home about, and underscores the anti-environmental and conservation position of the current administration. The Senate version will likely be voted on the end of September, so now is the time to contact your state Senators to voice your support. Once the Senate version passes, the House and Senate essentially wrangle over the two bills and reach a compromise, which means possibly more than what is budgeted for in the House, and less than is likely from the Senate. No matter what, trails and outdoor lands for recreation suffer, affecting our business future. For more information on the bills, contact Myrna Johnson at mjohnson@outdoorindustry.org.

Utah update: OIA still awaits anything meaningful from Leavitt

While the OIA confirms the association is continuing to have conversations with Utah Gov. Leavitt, it is becoming less and less clear just what fruit those conversations will bear by Summer Market. OIA president Frank Hugelmeyer has been very clear in stating that the industry expects positive and significant moves from the governor's office before the OIA is willing to say that industry concerns surrounding the governor's wilderness policies -- originally aired by Peter Metcalf -- are being addressed.

SNEWS View: One thing is clear -- If the governor doesn't proffer anything tangible with real meat to it, Summer Market is going to become a battleground of words, media dueling and political posturing the likes of which this industry has never seen.

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