Have a hand in halting OPE regulations

Outdoor Power Equipment, March, 2006 by Mike Hudson

With a broom held high in the air, Arizona Brown Cloud Summit Sub-committee Chairman Anne Wendell stated, "Banning leaf blowers is a no-brainer." It was everything I could do to keep from jumping up and describing another use for that broom that hadn't crossed Wendell's mind. Fortunately, I kept my seat and calmed down enough to testify later at that Nov. 28, 2000, meeting held in Phoenix. Since then, I have participated in a number of other proceedings. Lessons I learned along the way can help you challenge new regulations that affect the outdoor power equipment you sell and service.

RECOGNIZE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM

Your chances of successfully challenging a regulation dramatically increase if you are involved early in the legislative process. Many in the local Arizona landscape industry saw a summer 2000 Phoenix newspaper article that announced the Governor's Brown Cloud Summit. We were easy targets because no one in the landscape/OPE industry attended meetings until after another article came out, announcing a summit recommendation to ban leaf blowers.

ORGANIZE A GROUP

Following the recommendation to ban leaf blowers more than five years ago, the central Arizona landscape industry organized. We are all much more cautious about any piece of information that might indicate potential regulatory problems. If anything pops up, we contact each other, and check out the threat. As a group, we have faced a number of other state and city laws since that attempt to ban leaf blowers in 2000.

PRESENT A UNITED FRONT

Once the threat of new OPE regulation has been identified, the landscape industry group needs to discuss the issue.

It is very important that all concerned put up a united front. Let's say you face a city that wants to pass a noise ordinance that restricts the use of power yard equipment before 9 a.m. You can't have one landscape company recommending 8 a.m., another land scaper saying he'll accept 7 a.m., and a golf course that will not allow any restrictions before 6 a.m. Establish a consensus that all concerned can agree on, and stick to it when speaking to the city about the proposed ordinance.

Last year, the town of Paradise Valley, Ariz., started to work on a comprehensive noise ordinance package, which included some restrictions on power yard equipment. Early on, the town contacted Echo Power Equipment for information on leaf blower noise. Larry Will from

Echo alerted me of the pending action. I was able to establish a positive contact with the town even before the proposed ordinance was announced in the newspaper.

The Paradise Valley noise ordinance situation turned out to be a best-case scenario for the local landscape industry. We were notified early of pending action, we offered assistance to the town, and the town came up with an ordinance that was acceptable to all industry leaders.

The worst-case scenario happened when Arizona State Representative Christine Weason introduced House Bill #2109 in January 2001. The bill recommended the banning of leaf blowers in central Arizona. Her bill was endorsed by the Governor's Brown Cloud Summit, American Lung Association of Arizona, Arizona Public Health Association and the Sierra Club. Without opposition, this bill could have passed.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Arizona Director Michelle Bolton organized the landscape industry testimony on HB 2109 at the state environmental committee hearing in January 2001. The following guidelines used at that hearing can work with any testimony at a public meeting.

TESTIMONY GUIDELINES

SELECT SPEAKERS: Speakers need to be able to get their point across and be knowledgeable about the topic they are covering. Remember, lawmakers may ask questions. Select speakers with different backgrounds. You may want to have speakers from a large landscape company, a small landscape company, a golf course, and an OPE dealer.

SELECT TOPICS: All speakers need to be consistent in their opposition to the regulation, but each topic should be different. Topics could include how the regulation will negatively impact their business, as well as product noise improvements, exhaust emissions improvements, or safety improvements.

TIME LIMITS: Public meetings usually establish time limits of two to five minutes per speaker. Speakers need to present the topic, stay on track, and not duplicate other testimony.

STAY POSITIVE: Speakers might have to sit silently through an hour of testimony from people supporting the regulation they oppose. Then, the speaker has to get up and present the topic in a few minutes without attacking or blaming others. Not everyone can do that.

LIMIT OUTSIDE EXPERTS: You are perceived as the local expert on the topic you are delivering. Your lawmakers would rather hear from their constituents.

USE HANDOUTS: Supplement your verbal testimony by handing out documents that support your topic. Include colorful graphs or pictures for lawmakers to quickly glance at. This is a good time to also hand over copies of letters or petitions that support your topic. Another effective way to influence lawmakers is with a letter campaign. If there is a regulation pending that would

harm your business, send letters to lawmakers in both your home and business legislative districts. Encourage other employees at the company to do the same. Avoid form letters. E-mail is now the most effective way to send information to lawmakers.

Guidelines for getting your letter noticed include keeping it short, staying on target, and being positive. Make sure you write about how this regulation will affect you and your job. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself. If the letter campaign is organized by a group, forward a copy to all members. Copies of letters can be used to support testimony.

I am sure most of you have heard stories like, "Running a lawnmower for a half-hour pollutes the air as much as driving a car from Los Angles to Chicago." Sometimes data used to support legislation makes about as much sense. I have found state and county agencies to be approachable. Power landscape equipment exhaust emissions statistics in one case I looked into were based on a 1990 EPA study. That outdated emissions data was then applied to current population estimates. Check out any ordinance statistics you feel are inaccurate.

There are plenty of other official-looking OPE studies available just a mouse click away. Many of these studies are all the ammunition a "concerned" citizen or lawmaker needs to propose legislation. If you think your company is safe from lawn & garden equipment regulatory interference, GOOD LUCK.

If you would rather not rely on luck, look for some allies now that will help when a problem occurs. At the state level, the NFIB has done a fantastic job for us. For regulation issues at the town, city and state levels, check out your state landscape, nursery and golf course associations. Don't just join an organization and pay your dues. Someone from your company should attend agency meetings and be active. The contacts you make while working with the agencies could be vital if you have a problem.

The ceremonial broom has now been passed on to Arizona State House Representative Kyrsten Sinema. Her attempt to ban leaf blowers in central Arizona is House Bill #2846, introduced Feb. 7, 2006. Watch for ordinance threats, get organized, and be prepared to challenge OPE regulations that affect your business.

I would like to recognize the local leadership of A to Z Equipment Rentals & Sales, Arizona Landscape Contractors Association, Arizona Nursery Association, and the NFIB for their work on behalf of the OPE industry in Arizona.

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Mike Hudson was Service Manager for Eagle Distributing Inc. in Gilbert, Ariz. Eagle distributed commercial lawn and garden equipment to eight western states. Its lines included Echo, Little Wonder/Mantis, Scag, BlueBird, Yazoo/Kees, Classen and Oregon. Hudson received the EETC's John Thompson Memorial Service Manager of the Year award in April 2005.

Bibliography for: "Have a hand in halting OPE regulations"

Mike Hudson "Have a hand in halting OPE regulations". Outdoor Power Equipment. FindArticles.com. 29 Mar, 2011. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQH/is_3_49/ai_n16120719/

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