Chamber Blog

Ruth Ann Hanson, Chamber Area Director
Ruth Ann Hanson
Lisa Paxton, Chamber CEO
Lisa Paxton
Kathi Nagorski
Kathi Nagorski
Shannon Janco
Shannon Janco

Vacation Homes, Fishing Guides, and Policy Talk

Friday, February 5, 2010

I was in St. Paul yesterday for three meetings. The first was with Explore Minnesota Tourism staff to review research about lodging tax trends in MN with EMT staff, Scott Harrison from Lutsen Resort, and Fred Bobich, Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge. The research was completed by the U of M Tourism Center at the rest of organizations in northeast Minnesota – the results will be released in about 60 days.

The second meeting was a public policy meeting at EMT, a committee I have the honor to chair. The Department of Health presented information changing the definition of lodging to include vacation home rentals, we reviewed resolutions to support maintaining the post labor day school start and the current law that designates lodging tax for marketing purposes, and draft language about online travel company taxes. All topics were discussed and positions recommended for the full EMT council next week.

In addition, there was intense conversation about the Coast Guard enforcement of licenses on waters controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. Apparently the law has been in effect for years but has not been enforced. It affects Gull and Whitefish chains, and Mille Lacs. The current law requires a federal “six pack” license to operate boats commercially – this includes fishing guides, pontoon rides by resorters, resort staff transferring boats between docks, etc. The “six pack” was not designed for most inland lakes or rivers nor for small vessels such as 16-20 foot outboard boats. We are drafting a resolution to oppose this stringent requirement.

In addition, there is a requirement that all licensed mariners possess a transportation worker’s identity card (TWIC) - intended to help comply with security measures on larger vessels and commercial ports. Congressman Oberstar has proposed an amendment to HR 3619 to clarify that only mariners who enter designated secure areas of larger vessels need to obtain TWIC cards. The bill has passed the house but not the senate – so everyone is encouraged to call their senator to support the amendment.

Finally, I had the pleasure to attend the annual Minnesota Chamber Session Priorities dinner with a dozen volunteer leaders from the Brainerd Lakes area and Senators Koering and Olson, and Representative Ward and Howes. We enjoyed opening comments from Governor Pawlenty (you may have heard or seen some of his comments on radio, tv, or newspaper today), as well as interviews with House and Senate leadership about the session.

After a white knuckle drive back to the Brainerd Lakes area, we were home about 12:30 a.m. this morning.

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