In 2019, NPMA dominated at the state-level thanks to the cooperation, energy and execution of our state pest control associations and State Policy Affairs Representatives (SPARs). It was the busiest legislative year in recent memory as almost 900 bills were introduced that could affect our industry. It is essential that we prepare for 2020, and operate with a sense of urgency, as it will be another relentless year of legislative activity. Neonicotinoids, rodenticides, pesticide preemption, occupational licensing reform, service taxes and landlord-tenant bed bug legislation will likely be the top issues facing us in 2020.
Over the last five years we’ve seen about 30 to 40 bills introduced aimed at banning or restricting neonicotinoids. They are typically pieces of legislation that would either designate neonicotinoids as restricted use pesticides (RUPs), ban particular use patterns (ex. outdoor applications, treating plants, etc.), or a complete ban. Three laws are on the books in Connecticut (2016), Maryland (2016) and Vermont (2019) that designate neonicotinoids as RUPs and restrict their use for professionals only. Of these three laws on the books, none of them designate indoor uses of neonics as RUPs, but only outdoor uses. Connecticut’s RUP law specifically affects neonicotinoids that are labeled for treating plants. Our industry weighed-in on many neonic bills in 2019 and previous years, and expect additional engagement in 2020 for the following states: Arizona (bans introduced in past), Colorado (RUP bill may be introduced), Illinois (HB 3636—RUP designation), Massachusetts (H.763—professionals only + S.463—neonic ban), Michigan (ban introduced in past), Minnesota (HB 1255—allows local governments to ban neonics), New Hampshire (HB 646—RUP designation), New Jersey (SB 2288—RUP designation), New York (AB 7639—outdoor uses banned), North Carolina (HB 559/SB 496—RUP designation), Oregon (ban and RUP bills introduced in past), Pennsylvania (RUP bill introduced in past) and Virginia (outdoor ban introduced in past). NPMA, SPARs and state associations will be incredibly busy fighting bills targeting neonics in 2020.
It is important to note that rodenticides are under attack in California and Massachusetts. In California, second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are currently being reevaluated by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (Cal DPR), and Assemblyman Bloom (D-Malibu) will push for a ban on SGARs for the fifth year in a row, as AB 1788 passed the Assembly and subsequently stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2019. This proposed SGAR ban will be reworked for potential passage in 2020.
In Massachusetts, H. 3714 would create a special commission to study the effects of rodenticides on wildlife. This commission would usurp the regulatory authority from EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and would be comprised of non-experts, activists and other individuals that aren’t qualified to or experienced with evaluating pesticides. Upon the completion of the commission’s findings, it would make non-binding legislative recommendations to the legislature and governor. This bill is currently still sitting in the Joint Environment Committee after it was heard in September of 2019.
ATTEMPTS TO REPEAL PESTICIDE PREEMPTION AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF PESTICIDES
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, Pest Management Professionals (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. Forty-five states have pesticide preemption and five states do not (Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine and Nevada).
In order to advocate for and defend pesticide preemption, our industry must remain unified and electrified. In 2019, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin introduced legislation to repeal pesticide preemption. To date, none of these preemption repeal bills have passed. Activist groups are also targeting Colorado, California and other states to repeal pesticide preemption, so we expect more states will need defending in 2020. Lastly, Webster Groves, MO passed a pesticide notification resolution that our industry believes is in violation of the state’s pesticide preemption law. Pesticide preemption is perhaps the most important issue facing the structural pest management industry.
OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING REFORM
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) because many of these bills potentially violate FIFRA and the applicator certification agreements with EPA, untrained individuals could be permitted to apply restricted use pesticides, and unscrupulous operators could pose harm to customers and the industry’s reputation.
A prominent example in 2019 was HB 2697, introduced in West Virginia. The bill would allow and encourage non-licensed individuals to perform pest control services as long as the non-licensed person advertises on their website in at least size 14 font that they aren’t licensed—then they can perform pest control services without a license and be immune from administrative, civil and criminal penalties by the State of West Virginia. HB 2697 died in 2019. We will continue to closely monitor the issue of occupational licensing reform, as it could severely disrupt our industry.
In an ever-changing 21st century economy, state governments are shifting the ways they collect revenue by expanding state sales taxes to service industries. NPMA contested several bills in various state legislatures that would apply the state sales tax to pest management services over the last few years with recent victories in Utah and Wyoming. Virginia may be another state where the sales tax on our industry’s services could be considered, as two bills were introduced in 2018, and died, but could return in 2020.
“Our members must continue their engagement with NPMA, their state association and SPARs, as every person is critical to our success in the public policy arena.”
LANDLORD-TENANT BED BUG LEGISLATION
NPMA aims to enact landlord-tenant-PMP bed bug laws in every state after Connecticut’s landmark 2016 law because it requires PMPs to inspect and treat for bed bugs in apartments in most circumstances. Tenants are incentivized to come forward to the landlord and report that they have bed bugs and in most cases the landlord must hire a professional for inspections and treatments and the landlord absorbs the cost. In 2019, our industry helped enact HB 1328 into law in Colorado. Colorado’s law is very similar to Connecticut’s law. HB 1328 in Colorado is another remarkable achievement for our industry because it positions us as a private-sector solution to another state’s bed bug epidemic. Lastly, NPMA and NJPMA submitted written testimony on similar legislation, SB 1295, in New Jersey that passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee by a 4-1 vote and the corresponding Assembly Committee on a 6-0 vote. We hope that New Jersey and others will follow Connecticut and Colorado.
2019 was the toughest year-to-date, and 2020 likely won’t be any easier. Our members must continue their engagement with NPMA, their state association and SPARs, as every person is critical to our success in the public policy arena. Participating in events, calls to action and grassroots efforts will defend and bolster the structural pest management industry and your bottom line.
BY JAKE PLEVELICH, NPMA DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY