The Louisiana Senate has passed a revised version of House Bill 748, which was amended to clearly permit the use of professional certification credentials in the state.
HB 748, the “Occupational Licensing Review Act” was originally proposed with the intent of increasing employment opportunities in Louisiana by loosening licensing requirements for certain jobs. DEMA and other associations objected to wording in the initial text that would have restricted individuals holding a voluntary certification from using the term “certified” in their title.
For the diving community, if enacted as originally proposed, this bill would have prohibited certified instructors, divemasters/dive cons, rescuers, equipment repair professionals and others from acknowledging their professional credentials in offering their services to the public. Conversely, these professional statuses would have ceased – by law – being dive community standards that exist for the protection of the public, with the potential result that diving education and services could more easily be offered by untrained individuals.
The bill now provides for the governor’s office to review 20 percent of the agencies engaged in regulatory and licensing activities within five years. The term “certification” has been removed from the bill entirely.
As of this writing, the amended bill still must be passed by the full Louisiana Senate. It will then require a vote for concurrence on the House floor or be sent into conference. DEMA will continue to monitor changes to this bill and will remain on watch to prevent similar bills from being proposed or passed elsewhere.
Industry members who encounter legislation of any kind which is averse to the interests of the diving community are urged to contact DEMA for assistance.
DEMA has announced the launch of a new Go Dive Now retailer co-op Facebook advertising program. It is designed to assist DEMA Member retailers in reaching a greater number of customers while using the Go Dive Now campaign advertising materials including Go Dive Now social media ads and videos. DEMA Member retailers can customize these professionally-designed ads and videos to include their own logo, name and website. The co-op matching funds are meant to help increase the frequency of advertising, while using any of the Go Dive Now campaign collateral. The co-op program is designed to help more DEMA Members engage with the Go Dive Now campaign, recognizing that the program can increase the number of new divers in the US when more Members are using the professionally-designed Go Dive Now materials.
DEMA will match up to $450 per DEMA Member retailer for the co-op ad campaign on a first-come, first-served basis, using the date the application is received. Matching funds from DEMA for the media buy are distributed directly to the retailer at the end of the retailer’s Facebook ad campaign once required documentation is provided to DEMA. To be eligible for co-op funds, Member participants must use the professionally-produced Go Dive Now marketing collateral in Facebook advertising.
All advertising eligible for these funds must follow the rules of the co-op ad program process and co-op ad costs must be pre-approved by DEMA prior to running. To facilitate approval, retailer should complete the online application. The Go Dive Now retailer co-op advertising program will run until October 1, 2018 or when all available co-op funds are distributed, whichever occurs first.
DEMA is urging training organizations, dive retailers, and independent diving instructors to contact state legislators on a pending bill that would severely restrict the use of professional certifications in the state.
Louisiana House Bill 748, the “Occupational Licensing Review Act,” would prohibit use of the terms “certification” and “registration” for nongovernmental professional credentialing unless state law requires certification or registration to work in the profession (as in the medical field, for example).
DEMA’s contact with the general counsel firm for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, concluded in a client memo that the proposed legislation “could be disastrous” for nongovernmental certifications.
“In particular, HB 748’s definitions for the term ‘certification’ effectively prohibits certified professionals from holding themselves out as such unless such certification is a requirement for state occupational licensure,” Pillsbury writes. For the diving community, if enacted, this bill would prohibit certified instructors, divemasters/dive cons, rescuers, equipment repair professionals and others from acknowledging their professional credentials in offering their services to the public. Conversely, these professional statuses would cease – by law - being dive community standards that exist for the protection of the public, with the potential result that diving education and services could more easily be offered by untrained individuals.
DEMA is joining ASAE and other associations to oppose the bill. The bill, authored by Louisiana State Rep. Julie Emerson (R), has already advanced through the Louisiana House of Representatives and is slated for consideration by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and International Affairs Committee in the next several days. Without significant opposition, the bill could pass before the Legislature’s targeted mid-May adjournment.
DEMA’s 2018 Board of Directors will meet on May 21st and 22nd to strategize ways to help grow our Industry and maximize DEMA’s benefits for Members. Topics for discussion will include DEMA Show; DEMA’s consumer marketing campaign, Go Dive Now; the Go Dive Now Pool Tour and other consumer activities; how DEMA can serve the needs of the industry worldwide; and more.
Day one of the Board meeting will begin with the Board approving reports from past and completed activities as part of the “consent agenda.” For May, the consent agenda will include:
DEMA Show 2018 Update
Public Policy Update
Go Dive Now Program Update
Open Water Diver Research Results
Continuing Education Diver Research Results
Dive Traveller Research Results
Equipment Purchaser Research Results
2018 Q1 Financial Summary and Manufacturer’s Fund Report
Following approval of the consent agenda, the Board will discuss DEMA’s annual trade show, DEMA Show, and consumer-centric programs such as Go Dive Now, DEMA’s continuing consumer marketing campaign; the Go Dive Now Pool Tour; and discuss DEMA’s role in engaging divers. Day one will conclude with the Board covering any consent agenda items that require further discussion.
Day two will provide the Board Members with time to discuss association membership and member needs strategy, as well as how DEMA can continue to support the industry worldwide. The Board of Directors Meeting will conclude on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 22nd after any new business has been addressed. More information on DEMA’s Board of Directors and Bylaws is available on the DEMA website. Complete minutes from past Board of Directors Meetings are available to current DEMA Members from the Member Dashboard of www.dema.org. The next Board of Directors Meeting will be held on August 16th and 17th.
DEMA President Tom Ingram and Legislative Advocate Bob Harris, delivered written and spoken remarks in support of diving businesses during two days of meetings with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in Fort Lauderdale. Both Harris and Ingram provided comments on the need to protect sharks and Goliath Grouper in Florida waters. The meetings were standing room only and many DEMA-Member businesses attended the meetings on both days.
April 25 - Sharks and Shore-Based Shark Fishing During the meeting held on April 25th, DEMA provided remarks in favor of enforcing existing laws that prevent the intentional targeting and landing on shore of several protected species of sharks, among them Great Hammerheads and Tigers. The comments were necessary considering the actions of a small group of fishers in Florida who endanger protected shark species by deliberately using shore-based shark fishing to target and illegally land them, sometimes near public bathing areas. Landing and possessing many species of sharks in Florida is not legal, according to Florida Salt Water Fishing Regulations. DEMA asked FWC to consider the need for stronger enforcement of established regulations including revoking the fishing privileges of offenders.
In addition, DEMA also asked FWC to adopt regulations that ban shore-based shark fishing in the vicinity of designated public bathing areas. Such a ban already exists for any spear fishing activities within 100 yards of Florida’s public bathing beaches, and the scope of this ban should include hook and line fishing as well.
At the end of this meeting, Commissioners instructed FWC staff to initiate the process of rulemaking, with the goal of ensuring the protection of these at-risk sharks. The process may also address the issue of fishing in proximity to public bathing areas.
April 26 – Maintaining the Moratorium on Harvesting Goliath GrouperDuring the meeting held on April 26th, DEMA, along with 57 additional attendees spoke in opposition to the possibility that FWC would lift a 28-year moratorium on harvesting the protected Goliath Grouper, including the possibility of a “limited harvest” to provide fishing opportunities in the fishing community. Goliaths, which are listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), remain at risk and there remains no valid science that assesses the current stocks of these fish.
In addition to the lack of the good science needed to consider a change in the Goliath’s status, dive operators from all over Florida have enjoyed the tremendous business boost provided by divers’ desire to see these gigantic and slow-moving fish. Some operators indicate that 25% of their revenue comes from people coming from all over the world to participate in this world-class diving opportunity. Economic studies indicate that divers are willing to pay up to four-times the amount of money to see the Goliath ($336.00) as compared to fishers who indicated their willingness to pay $79.00 to catch one.
DEMA provided the dive stores and divers commenting in opposition to lifting the moratorium with “SAVE THE GOLIATH GROUPER” t-shirts, and signs to remind Commissioners of the value of these important and endangered animals.
Asking FWC to maintain the current prohibition on harvest and possession of Goliath Grouper in Florida.
Requesting that FWC, NOAA, or another appropriate agency or scientific organization undertake a more thorough stock assessment of the Goliath Grouper, to include research on the AGE of Goliaths.
Requesting that the Commission reject any recommendations to implement a “limited harvest” of these fish, especially as the FWC staff indicated that such a limited harvest “serves no valid data collection purpose” and would raise consumption concerns because of high mercury levels in large Goliath.
Asking FWC to put protections in place for Goliath Grouper which are commensurate with the reasonable protections currently afforded manatees.
DEMA also quoted DEMA’s own surveys of divers and dive professionals conducted in 2017 which indicated that more than 69% of ALL DIVERS favor continuing the moratorium, 64% of DIVERS IN FLORIDA favor maintaining the moratorium, and more than 77% of DIVERS TRAVELING TO FLORIDA favor it.
Commissioners, in response to this outpouring from the diving community determined that the harvest moratorium would remain in place. However, Commissioners asked FWC staff to develop a plan, by the end of 2018, to suggest how the FWC may move forward, with the consideration that harvest of Goliaths might, in the future, be reconsidered.
DEMA will continue to watch developments in these critical diving issues and has offered to be a resource to FWC to assist, especially in understanding the economic value of these fish to dive operators and Florida tourism.