Long (but important) post...
As many of you are aware SSCA has been leading the fight for cruisers rights for many years. This year our focus has been primarily in Florida and directed specifically at legislation perceived to severely limit navigation rights in the name of safety
. While many parts
of the proposed FL Senate bill are to cruisers benefit the concept
of 'residential setbacks' or, 'owning a view' are clearly not. In support of our anchoring
rights and freedom to navigate goals we have retained the services of former Florida Representative Jerry Paul to join with SSCA's registered lobbyist and Concerned Cruisers Committee (CCC) Phil Johnson. Jerry is an active boater who 'gets it' and has been very active on our behalf since his retention. The following press release announced his retention and gives you a brief insight into SSCA's activities to date. Please check the SSCA Home Page for print materials and sample letters as we release them.
Timing is important on this issue as with many.
On March 10, SSCA retained additional governmental affairs and lobbying support from the firm of Capitol Access in Tallahassee, Florida.
The President of this firm, Jerry Paul, is a friend to the cruising and boating
community. A life-long boater and cruiser, he offered to represent SSCA and take on our cause notwithstanding our current
limited available funds for such legislative efforts. Mr. Paul is an attorney, marine engineer
, former elected member
of the Florida House of Representatives, and a graduate of Maine
Maritime Academy. Jerry has cruised the waters of Florida and Maine
aboard multiple vessels including his own Catalina Sloop
. He is a subscriber to Passage
Maker Magazine and a member of multiple cruising and boating forums
including Cruisers Forum and Defever Cruising Forum. A veteran of Tallahassee politics for 24 years, Mr. Paul’s boutique lobbying firm is well-respected and recognized as a very effective with primary areas of focus on topics related to the environment
, agriculture, waterways, submerged land leases, coastal regulations
, and infrastructure projects. Many of the members of the Florida Legislature are former colleagues of Mr. Paul who represented the coastal portions of Sarasota
, Charlotte, and Lee Counties in the Florida Legislature. When Jerry is not in Tallahassee, he spends time on the water
, mostly in Southwest Florida, Charlotte Harbor
, Boca Grande, and the Florida Keys
Since joining the cause with SSCA, Jerry and his team have conducted an “all-hands-on-deck” approach with a comprehensive host of one-on-one meetings with every key member of Senate and House leadership, committee chairs, committee members, committee staff, and member staff. His team has compiled a package of communications
materials, photos, facts, data, statistics and articles highlighting the facts in the field that affect the interests of cruisers and boaters who enjoy anchorages
throughout coastal Florida. He points out that “the dwelling unit set-back provision is an orphan” which does not fit in a bill titled ‘an act related to vessel safety’. To other organizations who seemed to have concluded that this provision would pass regardless of efforts to oppose it, he emphatically pushes back, stating “This provision does not have to pass. We reject that conclusion. We oppose that notion. That set-back cannot become law. We can win this. We can beat this provision if we all stick together.”
His team has been showing committee staff that the 8,000 members of the SSCA, in collaboration with multiple cruising and boater forums
, magazines and blogs totaling an estimate of over 100,000 persons actively tracking this issue, support measures that are reasonably connected with safety
… but strongly oppose proposed bans founded upon interests that are not necessary for safety. For example, Capitol Access expresses opposition to provisions that are designed to establish preferential rights or control over areas of State waters based upon setbacks from “developed waterfront property” within which occupants of boats may not anchor
. These provisions have a nexus with convenience, preference, and aesthetics, rather than safety, and would result in laws that pick between classes
and groups of people based upon the nature of the structure they choose to occupy.
Jerry’s team has been pointing out that some of the politics driving this proposed anchoring
ban originate from anecdotal examples of disputes between occupants of land-based structures and occupants of waterborne vessels and these disputes have resulted in high-profile, publicized, conflicts between individuals. He’s been showing legislators that our cruising community is sensitive to these matters but, they are suited for resolution through remedies that could be accessed through enforceable judicial remedies … and such disputes do not justify a sweeping law, applied statewide, that would slash the rights and freedoms enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of boaters throughout the maritime waters of coastal Florida who would otherwise be punished by the bad acts of a few individuals. Simply put, these disputes should be resolved on a case-by-case basis through proceedings available in the judicial branch which, unlike the legislative branch, is specifically structured for such resolution.
Mr. Paul’s firm, Capitol Access, also points out that the orphan provision (pushing vessels 200 feet away from any condominiums or houses) could eliminate many existing anchorages
where many of the more than 1 million vessels annually visiting Florida waterways currently anchor. They are showing legislators that the occupants of these vessels, once anchored, then engage in massive amounts of economic activity and tax payments through businesses who serve them. He points out that the number of anchorage locations consequentially eliminated depends directly upon the distance that would be prescribed and that nobody really knows how many anchorages would be eliminated. But, in order for policymakers to accurately deliberate these topics they would need to know this so they can balance the interests of [boaters, visitors, Florida’s small businesses, Florida’s tax revenue, and Florida’s economy] … compared with the [aesthetic interests of some waterfront property owners]. He points out that the promoters of this ban have not performed the necessary geographical analysis to identify, count and list each anchorage that would be affected throughout coastal Florida statewide.
It is important to remember that the proponents of this ban rely upon an unscientific survey
(conducted by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission – FWC) which concluded that many people support some version of such a setback, but the respondents to this poll
were not provided with necessary information disclosing the consequences associated with particular poll
responses including the number of anchorages that would be eliminated by each optional setback distance. Capitol Access also points out that there are many Florida small businesses that depend on the economic activities of each such anchorage yet those businesses were not consulted to provide their input on the lost
revenue and job losses that would result from the proposed new layer of governmental regulation. They argue that this ban is not even ripe for legislative consideration until this information is compiled and presented by the proponents.
Through the combined efforts of Mr. Paul’s firm, Capitol Access, and the efforts of SSCA Boat US and others, we are making progress. Eyes are being opened. We’re winning over members. They are swinging our way. We are developing strong legislator champions positioned in the right posts to help defend our freedom and stop this legislation. But, we are only 14 days into a 60-day session. Our opponents have recognized our recent progress. They will regroup and push back. Jerry points out that the bills (Senate and House) have not yet been scheduled for committee hearings although that will occur soon. Stay tuned. At that time, there will be a need for some members of our cruising community to attend committee hearings in Tallahassee to provide testimony. Jerry will also help us coordinated a well-timed and carefully crafted host of messages to be tendered through massive email
campaign from all of our members and friends … to key legislators. We will provide notice of these messages, timing, and email
addresses through our cruising forums."