Beyond the Midterms: What Does this Mean for the Industry?

When John Boehner left his role as Speaker of the House in 2015, the last two months were like a lame duck session on steroids; he called it “cleaning the barn,” and he attempted to deal with as many outstanding issues as rapidly as he could. That’s the way transitions of power normally work in D.C.—the outgoing leader or Congress attempts to tie up as many loose ends as possible in a lame duck session so that their work is done, and the new Congress can start fresh.

That doesn’t look to be the case with the 115th Congress.

With very few legislative days left before the December 7 deadline for appropriations, no agreement is imminent, and rumors are swirling that President Trump is itching for a government shutdown. The Farm Bill technically expired on October 1 without a compromise in sight—and also facing a December 7 drop dead date—an extension into next year seems almost certain.

The Farm Bill is of particular concern to NPMA, given how the industry has championed several regulatory reform provisions. While the future of the Farm Bill is still unclear, it is becoming more likely that the regulatory reform provisions NPMA and others championed will not be included in the final version. If a Farm Bill miraculously passes in 2018, then Democrats will certainly work to block them from consideration. If extended into 2019, then the Farm Bill process will essentially begin over, and a Democrat-controlled House will assert their new power to block regulatory reform provisions.

This means that NPMA priorities going forward into the 116th Congress will be focused on harmf24ul legislation we must protect against, and proactive bipartisan legislation that stands a chance of passage.

The next two years will not be easy at the federal level. The House will focus on putting pressure on President Trump and his administration, so expect to see many oversight hearings. Democrats have already begun discussing the subpoenas they will send to the White House. Also likely will be extreme legislation in the House that goes nowhere in the Senate. Anything that does pass Congress will need to be bipartisan and non-controversial, which leaves a very narrow sliver of items. While we anticipate having to play defense in the House a great deal, the Senate will help act as a backstop on any truly bad legislation.

The 116th Congress is going to be hard. Our industry will have to push back in the House and fight hard to get anything meaningful done. But there are opportunities as well. Opportunities to build relationships with the moderates in both parties who will be desperate to get something done. Opportunities to work with offices and districts we haven’t before and opportunities to try and forge compromise. Our victories will not necessarily be defined by what we stop—although that will be essential—but by the bipartisan relationships we form to proactively work with such a divided body.

In the States

After the 2018 elections in state governments, threats to the structural pest management industry are more present than ever. With each passing year, the activists are more organized. Proposed pesticide bans continue to multiply in state legislatures. Occupational licensing reform, tax increases and local governments regulating pesticides all have the potential to make or break your business. But the industry has never been more poised to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. For the 2019 state legislative sessions, NPMA and state associations are ready and waiting.

Proposed pesticide bans will continue to be introduced in state legislatures. The most common variety is legislation targeting neonicotinoids. Over the past two legislative sessions (four years) we’ve seen about 30 to 40 bills introduced aimed at banning or restricting neonicotinoids. They typically are pieces of legislation that would either designate neonicotinoids as restricted use pesticides (RUPs), ban their use in a certain situation (ex. outdoors) or a complete ban. While many of these bills have been introduced, only two bills designating neonicotinoids as RUPs were enacted into law in Connecticut and Maryland. It should also be noted that California and Massachusetts are two states where activist groups are pushing to ban rodenticides. PMPs should keep a close eye on their state governments, as this level of government is among the most likely to remove tools out of their toolboxes.

Regulating pesticides at the state-level is a fundamental pillar to the success of the structural pest management industry. In states that allow local governments to regulate pesticides, PMPs battle daily with conflicting, confusing and overlapping regulations. In states that prevent local governments from regulating pesticides, our industry must mount an impenetrable defense of existing state law, as activists relentlessly attempt to chip away at pesticide preemption laws in state legislatures. In order to advocate for and defend pesticide preemption, our industry must remain unified and electrified.
In an ever-changing 21st century economy, state governments are shifting the ways they collect revenue by expanding state sales taxes to service industries. Roughly half of the states already tax pest control services, and the other half do not. Both Democrats and Republicans support expanding sales taxes on services because it is technically not a “tax increase,” but often referred to as “broadening the tax base.” Sales taxes on services are potentially punitive and a hindrance to hiring a pest management professional. Whether it is a life-saving surgery performed by a doctor or a PMP keeping cockroaches and rodents from contaminating the food we eat—these are both critical services that protect public health. Raising the cost of these imperative services through a state sales tax harms our customers and the common good.

Occupational licensing reform is a serious issue for the structural pest management industry. As both Democrats and Republicans aim to reduce barriers to entry for certain licensed occupations (ex. hair-braiders, barbers, social workers, etc.), pesticide applicators are often grouped into the discussion of deregulation. While deregulation might sound good, the ramifications of deregulating our industry are potentially disastrous. The EPA regional office could end up regulating pesticide applicators in your state instead of your State Lead Agency (ex. Department of Agriculture), untrained individuals could be permitted to apply restricted use pesticides and unscrupulous operators could pose harm to our customers and the industry’s reputation. This is a very serious and bipartisan issue potentially affecting every state.

There are other issues that our industry should be diligent of. One of them is pest control being covered under Medicaid for patients who are elderly or disabled and transition from a long-term care institution (ex. nursing home) to private living under the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver. Most state Medicaid offices will cover pest control under the HCBS Waiver in this circumstance, but our industry advocates for the services to be required by a licensed applicator and against limits on the number of service visits and cost. Additionally, requiring certified applicators for pest control services in health care institutions is another issue that our industry is capitalizing on in the states. Tax credits for pest control services, landlord-tenant bed bug laws and electronic trap monitoring (ETM) laws are other positive policies for the industry that PMPs should stay apprised of.

NPMA encourages all members to participate in every level of government, but especially at the state level. Those who are involved in government the least lose the most. To our NPMA members, we thank you for standing, uniting and fighting alongside us. See you in 2019.

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