2006 can also be looked at as a turning point for government relations at OIA and SIA. All three were able to effectively lobby and push bills through the House and Senate that will have a tangible impact in years to come. Much of the progress was made during the final days of the 109th Congress. While many political analysts are comparing the 109th congress to the infamous “Do Nothing” congress during Truman’s Presidency, both OIA and SIA were able to push several important bills through at the last minute.

OIA had been fighting to maintain funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which had tentatively been zeroed out by the current administration. However, as one of its final acts, this Congress approved legislation that for the first-time provides a permanent source of funding for local parks and trails. The legislation establishes a direct source of funding for the Stateside LWCF that would not be subject to the appropriations process. The House and Senate also passed trade legislation containing several OIA-crafted provisions that would eliminate import tariffs on waterproof-breathable footwear.

SIA was able to reduce tariffs and duties on imported ski and snowboard footwear. SIA worked with members of Congress to extend duty breaks for SnowSports boots, which were set to expire this year, until the end of 2009. Additionally, the duty was further reduced from 4% to 0%. Products included in this duty reduction are snowboard boots, ski boots, and cross country ski footwear.

A major victory for the outdoor industry this year included a decision by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte, who over-ruled the Bush administration’s decision to repeal the roadless rule. The decision ruled that the Bush Administration did not conduct a satisfactory environmental analysis before making changes that allowed states to decide how to manage individual national forests. The Roadless Rule originally protected 58 million acres of roadless forests in 39 states.

According to the Court, the administration is enjoined from taking any further action contrary to the Roadless Rule without undertaking environmental analysis consistent with Judge Laporte’s judicial opinion. In addition, the court found that the Bush Administration failed to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

Not all of the battles on Capitol hill were won this year. The Small Business Health Care Plan, one of the top priorities during OIA’s recent Capitol Summit and a key issue for the retailers in the industry, was defeated in Congress this year. The Bill was proposed by Senator Enzi this year and would have allowed industry associations to pool their members together to reduce health insurance administrative expenses and increase bargaining power. The bill, S.1955 received 55 favorable votes, but needed 60 votes to ensure passage.

Internationally this year, the European Union passed what was called a “compromise” footwear anti-dumping tariff, which will levy a 16.5% charge on footwear manufactured in China and a 10% charge on Vietnamese footwear. While these duties are lower than the previous temporary duties, 19.4% on leather shoes from China and 16.8% on those from Vietnam, most importers and retailers are opposed to the new tariff. This import duty will impact several U.S. outdoor brands, including Merrell, Columbia, and Timberland.

>>> While not all news was positive, the Politicians in D.C. are taking the industry seriously for the first time, thanks to the efforts by our industry organizations…