The months leading up to November 6th were rife with speculation over what the voters would have to say—would the Senate flip? The House? By how many? Was it going to be a blue tsunami, as some polling seemed to indicate? Or would the GOP hold on by the skin of its teeth?
While that frenetic speculation (and in D.C. at least, rampant betting) on the outcome have settled down, the fact remains that the political landscape on November 7th looked very different than it did on November 5th. At the federal and state levels, the polarization between the parties has only increased, and as we rush towards a 2020 presidential year, there will be a lot of inter- and intra-party fighting to establish a narrative and accomplishments.
The NPMA team has broken down what these elections mean and what the shifting political landscape means for the industry.
For protectors of public health and property, election results in the laboratories of democracy tell stories of polarization, an inundation of new legislators and governors and inevitable gains by Democrats as Republican representation falls from all-time highs in the states after nearly a decade of strong electoral success for the GOP. Depending on where you live, threats to the tools in your toolbox and bottom-line may have increased. Sure, some anti-pesticide lawmakers had a good night. But when one door closes, another one opens. Despite the 2018 election results, pest management professionals should remain optimistic. It doesn’t matter if the Democrats are in power or if the Republicans are in power; the structural pest management industry will not only survive but thrive in any political environment.
For the first time since 1914, there is only one state legislature in the country that has divided control, Minnesota, where the House flipped to the Democrats and the Senate remains in Republican control. In every other state, only one party controls both the House and Senate (except for Nebraska, which is the only state with a unicameral legislature). With one party controlling 49 out of 50 state legislatures—expect a lot of very red and very blue legislation. One-party trifectas, where the governor and both legislative chambers are controlled by the same party, hit a record number for Republicans after the 2016 elections with 26. Additionally, Democrats held eight one-party trifectas, while 16 states had divided government. After the 2018 elections, Republicans are expected to have 22 to 23 one-party trifectas, depending on the Georgia Governor’s race (which is still undecided at the time of this writing). Democrats are expected to have 14, and 13 states are expected to have divided government.
A blue wave?
Democrats made up ground, but it wasn’t recordbreaking—rather it was actually below average. Democrats are expected to net around 300 seats in state legislatures, while the average net gain for the opposition party after a president’s first two years is around 415 seats. Nonetheless, this legislative cycle will likely be more interesting than the last for PMPs in certain states.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
• New York: The New York Senate flipped to solid Democratic control, making New York a one-party trifecta for the Democrats. The NY Senate was controlled by Republicans due to a coalition with moderate Democrats over the past several cycles. This coalition served as a defense-field against anti-business legislation and pesticide bans. Previously, whatever extreme legislation made it through the Assembly (lower house) was dead on arrival in the Senate. Not anymore. Things will get interesting in Albany. Aside from arbitration bans and other anti-business legislation, PMPs should carefully monitor neonicotinoid and other pesticide bans in NY’s new political landscape.
• Colorado: Democrats retained control over the Governor’s mansion and flipped the Senate in Colorado. Colorado’s new Governor-Elect Jared Polis (D) previously represented Boulder, CO in Congress. In 2015, Boulder restricted neonicotinoids on city-owned property. Additionally, while in Congress, Polis referred to legislation aimed at repealing NPDES permits in 2016 as the “Pesticide Trojan Horse Act.” Polis was also a co-sponsor on legislation to ban chlorpyrifos during this Congress. Given these opposing views to pesticides, it’s important to educate lawmakers on the structural pest management industry and offer to work together, as these are some of the best ways to bolster and defend the industry in what otherwise appears to be a challenging environment.
Other Democratic Pickups Resulting in Trifectas
• Illinois: Democrats won the Governor’s office, with businessman J.B. Pritzker (D) defeating incumbent Bruce Rauner (R).
• Maine: Democrats won control of the Maine Senate and took the Governor’s office, with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills (D) defeating businessman Shawn Moody (R) and State Treasurer Teresea Hayes (I).
• New Mexico: Democrats won the Governor’s office, with U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) defeating U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R).
• Nevada: Democrats won the Governor’s office, with Steve Sisolak (D) defeating Adam Laxalt (R).
Navigating challenging political environments: Make new friends
There was roughly a 23 percent turnover rate in state legislatures. That means that there are approximately 1,700 new state legislators and 19 new governors that the pest control industry needs to meet and develop relationships with. Communicate and educate them about the importance of protecting public health and property. Inform them of how many jobs you’ve created, families you support and customers you protect. Make it clear that you protect their constituents from dangerous and deadly pests. Connect with lawmakers on a human level about your disdain for bed bugs, cockroaches and rodents, as I’m sure, regardless of their political leanings, most of them will agree with you. The key to thriving in a difficult political environment is developing relationships with lawmakers, but also educating them on the importance of the industry and how the industry serves their constituents.
Beyond the midterms: What does this mean for the industry?
Advocate for positive legislation as a weapon against negative legislation. Let’s take the classic pesticide ban scenario. For example, imagine a neonicotinoid ban is proposed in a state legislature and considering the political environment—it’s viable. The first step is to inform lawmakers about how the structural pest management industry uses these products in-and-around structures to kill bed bugs, cockroaches and termites. Highlight how these pests jeopardize their constituents’ mental and physical health and property. By banning neonicotinoids, their constituents are left more vulnerable to pest infestations, while bed bugs and cockroaches are thrown a lifeline.
Once you’ve made the case as to how the neonicotinoid ban would remove a vital tool in your toolbox for managing dangerous and deadly pests then consider going a step further. Offer to use the pest control industry as a private-sector solution to the pest problems plaguing their district. It might be worth informing the lawmaker of a potential policy solution, for example, does the lawmaker represent a district plagued by bed bugs? Have they ever heard of a policy regarding professional pest control service tax credits for low to middle-income constituents? In New Jersey, there is legislation proposed that would allow taxpayers making under $100,000 to use up to a $500 refundable tax credit for bed bug pest control services. Under the legislation, taxpayers may claim 15 percent of the cost of pest control services for bed bugs on their taxes using this credit. Another example is Connecticut’s bed bug law that establishes protocols for landlords, tenants and PMPs regarding bed bug inspections and treatments. The law incentivizes tenants to report bed bug infestations, while the landlord must respond within a reasonable timeframe and is financially responsible for hiring a certified pesticide applicator to inspect and treat for bed bugs as legislation like this would greatly improve the lives of constituents living with bed bugs in their district.
By Jake Plevelich, Director of Public Policy
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