Persistence! It doesn’t matter what state you’re in, beneficial legislation for the boating business can be accomplished if you won’t quit on it.Case in point: The Indiana Marine Trades Association reports it has made it to the “Final Four” in its long quest to change the start date of schools in the Hoosier State. The group is in its sixth year of pursuit and it looks like it won’t need a seventh!
“We have never been closer to getting this done than we are today,” reports Pat Casey, Casey’s Cove Marina in Angola, Ind. “We’ve always known accomplishing this will be good for our businesses and we’ve just refused to give up on it.”
IMTA has long advocated that going back to a school year that begins after Labor Day and ends around Memorial Day would be good for Indiana families, the boating industry, state tax coffers and much more. It points to nearby Michigan, one of the first states to pass such legislation, as the model. In fact, an IMTA delegation once traveled to the Michigan Boating Industries Association to meet with president Van Snider and study MBIA’s legislative program. “Indiana Senate Bill 150 has passed 32-19,” says Casey. “It’s now in the House Education Committee. We anticipate it will be attached to House Bill No. 1367, that it will pass this session and Gov. Mitch Daniels will sign it.”
IMTA, along with the “Save Indiana Summers” coalition, may have added its most compelling arguments this year – perhaps some model points for others pursuing a change in their state. For example:
• There are 206 “usable” school days between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Indiana requires 180 school days. That’s 26 days for flexible use.
• If ½ days of school currently on the calendar were changed to full days, 10 school days could be dropped from pre-Labor Day openings.
• Currently, the largest school districts must reduce budgets by as much as $15 million. It takes about $1 million a day to run school buses.
• Changing the school calendar costs the Indiana treasury nothing! On the contrary, increased recreational activity in August will add to the treasury.
According to Snider, the positive impact it’s had in Michigan includes: An extension of family boating time and the resulting revenue for dealers and marinas; keeping student summer workers on the job longer; increased statewide tourism in August, especially in northern Michigan; and initially increased tourism tax revenues by $10 million plus.
“But there was an added benefit to our pursuit of this issue,” explains Snider. “Historically, it was always hard to get small businessmen to get directly involved in legislative battles. ‘That’s what the trade association is for’ was usually the thinking. But this post-Labor Day issue captured broad interest and got our dealers and marinas actively involved in the process. We all learned we can positively affect public policy when we take direct action.”
A 2007 market data study found 76 percent of all schools open before Labor Day, some the first week of August! Since then, 11 states have reacted by moving the openings back to late August or post-Labor Day. Lawmakers in 16 other states are currently considering such legislation. If your state is one, find out how you can get directly involved.