It may be now or never for national energy-efficiency standards on portable hot tubs.

A bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) would establish minimum requirements for a number of appliances and equipment, including portable spas. It needs 60 co-sponsors to be heard by senators once they return from Thanksgiving break.

There’s urgency, advocates explain, because new lawmakers are sworn in on Jan. 3, 2011.

“This is our last chance with this Congress. We need to show it has enough bipartisan support by the time they come back,” said Jennifer Hatfield, principal of Sarasota, Fla.-based J. Hatfield & Associates, which specializes in advocacy work for the industry.

S.B. 3925 sets mandatory nationwide standards for energy use of residential appliances, residential heating and cooling equipment, pole-mounted outdoor lighting fixtures, residential portable lighting fixtures and other products, including portable electric spas.

For hot tubs, the legislation draws on draft language contained in the APSP-14 portable spa energy-efficiency standard, which is expected to be approved by the American National Standards Institute by early 2011.

The bill would lend uniformity to manufacturing processes and federalize energy-consumption rules, preventing individual states from adopting separate standards, explained Steve Hammock, president of Watkins Manufacturing in Vista, Calif., which has pushed its parent company Masco Corp. to contact a number of Senate offices for support.

“Business performs best when the rules are clear,” Hammock added. “The only way we’ll get out of this morass we’re in is by growing our way out. You have to create a business-friendly environment ... to do that.”

The bill is backed by a number of trade groups (including the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals), as well as several consumer and environmental organizations.

On behalf of APSP, Hatfield is continuing to press member companies to ask their states’ senators to co-sponsor the bill. In Florida, she’s already contacted the office of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Across the country, representatives from Balboa Water Group in Tustin, Calif., have spoken with aides at Sen. Barbara Boxer’s office, and hope to soon connect with the staff of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“We want to make sure they understand how it impacts business in California,” said Bob Spillar, vice president of marketing at Balboa. “Coming up with standardization across the U.S. will help manufacturers drive up demand, create more jobs and ultimately boost investment.”