Congress Passes Highway Bill, Provides Reauthorization for Sportfish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund and Ex-Im Bank

On December 3, the House & Senate approved the conference report to H.R.3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, and sends the bill to President Obama for his signature into law.  This bill includes a reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank through 2019 and a complete 5 year reauthorization of the Sportfish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF). 

NMMA has been working with its Angling & Boating Alliance (ABA) partners for nearly three years in the lead up to Thursday’s approval of the highway bill on a number of policy changes that the recreational boating and fishing community believes are needed to keep the SFRBTF the world’s premier aquatic conservation, and boating and fishing access funding mechanism.  The information is provided below on what it seems are the notable policy features:

  • New language regarding the $1.2 million that funds the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council  and the four fisheries commissions but with no substantive policy or funding change from present law.
  • Provisions regarding the distribution of funds to Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIG) and Clean Vessel Act (CVA) grants in an effort to find administrative fund efficiencies and to provide states with more flexibility in how they use these funds.
  • Alters the $3 million Multi-State Conservation Grant Program from an off-the-top deduction and includes it in the SFR distribution.
  • Provides a new and different way to arrive at the Coast Guard administrative fees as a hard cost total amount off the top.
  • Of the total amount, $1.5M is specific for the boating survey, $2.1 is for the manufacturer's compliance program aka Chapter 43, and the remainder ($4.3M in FY2016) for administering the state grant program (currently done with the 2% of the RBS distribution which is about $2M) and for conducting the Coast Guard Recreational Boating Safety program.

These changes represent our industry's collective desire to protect a robust and fully functioning SFRBTF; one thanks our members and coalition partners that helped get this bill across the finish line this year; it was an incredible effort by everyone!