Lobbyist represents boating interests in Annapolis ANNE ARUNDEL BUSINESS

January 28, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

Jack Neil has been paid to lobby on behalf of health and environmental interests, capital financing, state finance procurement and trade.

Now, the Arnold resident has come to Annapolis to fight for something close to his own heart -- boating.

It's no coincidence that the new lobbyist for Annapolis-based Marine Trades Association of Maryland is also an avid boater who owns a 22-foot catamaran and has crewed on trans-Atlantic voyages.

"I have a strong appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay and for the importance of boating," said Mr. Neil, who has run Jack Neil & Associates, a political and legislative consulting firm, since 1984.

The 400-member state marine trades group, made up of marina owners, boat dealers and suppliers, and manufacturers of marine equipment, has hired Mr. Neil to represent it during this legislative session.

The boating industry, which relies on disposable income, has been especially hard hit during the past few years, plagued by foreclosures, bankruptcies and high unemployment. The industry, bordering on depressed, likely will be one of the last to emerge from a lingering recession, Mr. Neil said.

His job will be to fend off what the group views as further blows -- additional taxes, restrictions and fee increases.

As state government relies less on the general fund and more on fees, boaters will become likely targets, Mr. Neil said. He said he will watch closely for fee increase proposals and would urge legislators to earmark any increases for the Waterways Improvement Fund.

"Those of us who are businessmen don't have time to dedicate entirely to government affairs," said David Morrow, the association's president and a specialist in marine insurance for the Henry Murray Insurance Agency. "We need a central voice."

Mr. Neil replaces Mick Blackistone, an Annapolis boating advocate who helped revive the association 15 years ago, then became a driving force behind the group's lobbying efforts. Mr. Blackistone, the former executive director, left the group last summer to become director of state government relations for Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association.

This week, Mr. Neil testified before the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee, opposing a bill that would require marinas to file semi-annual reports with the state Department of Natural Resources on out-of-state boats.

Marina operators would have to report a boat owner's name and address, vessel number, hull identification number and boat name, length, model, manufacturer and year.

Members of the boating industry say the law would place an undue hardship on marinas -- already experiencing vacancies of 40 percent -- by requiring marina operators to take on a job of Department of Natural Resources police.

The department proposed the bill to identify out-of-state boaters who have avoided paying state excise taxes.

"The reality is there probably are a few out there, but not enough to justify this proposal," Mr. Neil said.

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