In this presidential election year, we have two very distinct roads traveled by each one of the candidates, especially when it comes to domestic policies impacting the landscape industry.
In the left lane, we have Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State, New York Senator and first lady Hillary Clinton staying the course of the current administration. In the right lane, we have Republican presidential nominee and real estate mogul Donald Trump proposing sweeping and broad changes in all facets of government.
“When it comes to any detailed issues of importance to landscape professionals, it’s quite difficult to assess what a given outcome might mean from either presidential candidate,” says Paul Mendelsohn, vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). Mendelsohn is tracking policy issues most important to landscape businesses, including employee overtime and minimum wage; effective H-2B legislation; fertilizer and pesticide bans, restrictions or limitations; and water quality and quantity issues. “Yet, which party wins control of Congress is a factor that could impact our industry. A swing in several contested districts could lead to a democratic Senate, which may be much more sympathetic to outcries by environmental activists, lead to H-2B revisions and might result in even more stringent regulations from the EPA.”
Immigration reform 2016: H-2B visa push and pull
The 2016 presidential candidates have taken opposing lanes on their quest for immigration reform. Trump calls for mass deportations, migrant bans and a wall on our southern border with Mexico, while Clinton wants a pathway to citizenship, immigrant integration and protection from deportation.
“Clinton’s position on H-2B is still very much a mystery,” says Mendelsohn. “She hasn’t commented on any of the foreign guest worker visa programs, although during the primary campaign she was frequently targeted by Bernie Sanders for the Clinton Foundation’s reliance on the H-1B visa program. She also contends that immigration reform would ‘bring millions of people into the formal economy,’ which may negate the need for reliance on a foreign seasonal workforce.”
Overtime and minimum wage wobbles
At various stages of the Trump campaign, we have heard advocacy for keeping the federal minimum wage at its current level of $7.25 per hour, then raising it to $15 per hour, followed by eliminating it altogether, and finally, his current position of raising it to $10 per hour with the caveat of permitting states to set their own minimum wage. Trump has not made any comments regarding other worker-related issues of interest to the landscape industry, including overtime pay, worker exploitation and safety. From his position on wages it is likely that he would favor a free market business climate with a significant decrease in regulations.
Clinton is on record as supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour with support for state and local efforts to go even higher. She also is an advocate of the recently announced Department of Labor change in the federal overtime rule that calls for full-time salaried employees to earn overtime if they make up to $47,476 a year, more than double the current threshold of $23,660 a year. The Clinton campaign also includes provisions to protect workers from employer misclassification, wage theft and other forms of exploitation.
“NALP and a broad coalition representing small business interests have actively opposed the overtime rule, supporting a much more common sense graduated increase as opposed to more than doubling the threshold all at once,” says Mendelsohn. “And when it comes to worker protection, the Clinton campaign does not indicate how those goals would be accomplished or if they would call for additional regulations.”
Environmental control valve opened or closed
Clinton has policy proposals related to water quantity and quality, “growing the outdoor economy,” increasing environmental stewardship for working landscapes, protecting endangered species and increasing production of clean energy. However, information regarding her position on the issues that would most directly impact landscape professionals is an unknown.
Although Trump has not said anything specifically about the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticide and fertilizer regulation or pollinator health, he has been very vocal about unnecessary regulations that hurt American businesses.
Neither candidate has stated publicly their positions related to the use or regulation of pesticides and fertilizers, one of the key environmental concerns impacting landscapers.
“A Clinton administration is much more likely to create environmental regulations and increase scrutiny of pesticides, especially those that are claimed to negatively impact pollinator health,” says Mendelsohn. “That is an educated guess, based on priorities of many Democrats in Congress, and expectations that Clinton will ‘stay the course’ on key issues of the Obama administration, such as the controversial ‘Waters of the United States’ (WOTUS), a regulation currently under development by the EPA that will dramatically expand the meaning of Federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, which NALP and other industry allies have aggressively opposed.
“By inference, one would suspect Trump’s view of pesticide regulation would be favorable to the landscape and lawn care industry,” says Mendelsohn. “Similarly, he would most likely view the expansion of the Clean Water Act proposed under WOTUS [unfavorably].”
New Hampshire Senate Race Tight for Landscape-related Candidate
Currently, there is one member of Congress with a direct connection to the landscape industry. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a first term Republican representing New Hampshire. Ayotte is in a tough election battle, but is leading in the polls.
Ayotte’s husband, Joe, is the owner of a landscape design and snow removal firm, Daley’s Outdoor Services, that began its Nashua-based operations in 2003. According to Ayotte’s Senate website, her husband’s business provides her with an “understanding of how decisions made in Washington impact small businesses.”
“During her time in office, Ayotte has been a tireless champion on many issues of importance to landscape professionals and adds an important inside-the-industry perspective on many of our core issues,” says NALP’s Mendelsohn.