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PLNA e-News: Protecting Values In Pennsylvania

2017 Legislative Recap

Wednesday, December 13, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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In Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG – Despite all the budget travails, 20-17 was an active year for legislation of interest to Pennsylvania’s green industry. A couple of bills passed and others are poised to pass in the second half of the 2017-2018 General Assembly session.

Pending Legislation

Turf Grass Fertilizer (SB 792) – This bill has been introduced in the past four sessions of the General Assembly and died in the Senate Appropriations Committee in the last three. This year’s version has moved farther than it has at any time in the past and is poised to be passed by the Senate. The legislation would mandate certain application rates for turf grass fertilizers and require that all applicators be licensed.

PLNA has opposed the legislation because it not based on sound science, could cause environmental harm and would cost the industry millions. Unless changes are made that respect the science on turf grass fertilizer application, PLNA will continue to oppose this legislation.

If the bill passes the Senate, PLNA will work with House legislators to have the bill amended or killed.

Exempting High Tunnels from Storm Water Management Act (HB 1486) – Local governments have begun to require that high tunnels have stormwater engineering studies completed before they can be built, negating the relatively low-cost of high tunnels. This bill will exempt high tunnels from the requirements of the storm water management act, providing they meet certain setbacks from streams and other waterways.

The bill passed the House 156-33 and is now in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. PLNA is supporting the bill.

Growing Greener III (HB 503, SB 705) - PLNA is supporting legislation that will reauthorize the Growing Greener Program. The Growing Greener Program provides funding for tree plantings, riparian buffers and other green infrastructure projects.

This year’s budget concerns have slowed the progress of this legislation and neither bill has moved out of committee.

Commercial Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation (HB 624) – PLNA is supporting legislation to limit the liability of snow removal contractors. Recently, property managers have begun including in their contracts with snow removal contractors clauses that place liability for accidental slips, trips and falls on snow contractors, even though the contractor had nothing to do with those accidents. This has led to sky-rocketing liability insurance premiums for snow removal contractors.

The legislation has been bottled up in the House Insurance Committee due to opposition from the retailers’ association and the trial lawyers’ association.

Enacted Legislation

Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act (Act 46) - On October 30, Governor Wolf signed into law the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act. The new law revamps the old Noxious Weed Act and broadens the power of the Department of Agriculture to regulate plants in Pennsylvania.

This new law significantly expands the power of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to regulate plants. While plants could be banned from possession and sale under the old Noxious Weed Act, the new law also allows plants to be regulated through a licensure process under a Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Board.

This new law was many years in the making. At PDA’s invitation, PLNA began working with the Department on drafts of the law over six years ago. After many drafts, PLNA’s comments and concerns were incorporated in to the bill finally signed by the governor on October 30. PLNA was successful in getting a seat for the green industry on the new plant board.

Read a summary of the new law here.

Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence (Act 55) – This commission was created to focus the efforts of the Departments of Agriculture and Education on creating a plan for agricultural education in the state. The major responsibility of the Commission is to create a state-wide curriculum for agricultural education. The commission is just now beginning to form and is comprised of the secretaries of Agriculture and Education, farmers, educators and other government officials.

In Washington, D.C.

Agricultural Guest Worker Program H-2C – Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) has introduced legislation in the House to create new agricultural guest worker program to replace the H-2A program. Referred to as H-2C, the bill seeks to correct many of the problems with the existing H-2A program.

The bill was marked-up (amended) in the House Judiciary Committee in October this year, but could not achieve enough consensus to be voted out of committee. Its fate is uncertain, especially as we move toward House elections in 2018.

PLNA and our partner in Washington, AmericanHort, have not yet supported the bill. For a synopsis of the bill click here.

H-2B Reform Bills (S.792, HR 2004) - S. 792, the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act, and H.R.2004, the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act are bipartisan efforts to reform the H-2B guest worker program that is used by many landscape contractors. Unfortunately, the H-2B program has been conflated by opponents with illegal immigration and the Congress has little stomach for moving them in this polarized toxic environment. PLNA, AmericanHort and the National Association of Landscape Professionals support the bills.

Tax Reform – As of this writing, details of the final tax reform bill that Congress is likely to vote on before Christmas are not known. The House and Senate versions of the bill are now being negotiated in a conference committee. The major benefits of the tax bills passed by the Senate and House accrue to larger companies. The final negotiations will determine how well the bill will treat small businesses and individuals. For a synopsis of the House and Senate tax reform bills click here.

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