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Government Affairs: Trump’s first few weeks

February 7, 2017 -  By

 

We are a few weeks into the Trump administration, and we’re getting a glimpse of how this presidency might impact (or not) the landscape contracting industry in three major areas: immigration reform, guest-worker programs and regulations.

Immigration Reform

It’s clear comprehensive immigration reform (like the bill that passed the Senate but stalled in the House in 2013) will be a long time coming. As he promised in the campaign, Trump is taking steps to “build the wall,” regardless of whether Mexico pays for it. Congress seems ready to front whatever U.S. tax dollars would be required to get the wall built. Any talk of immigration reform stops at building the wall.

Trump does seem to be modifying his position on what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country. During the campaign he said his plan was to have a deportation police force round up everyone living in the U.S. illegally and deport them, but he recently said he would focus deportation efforts on the criminals.

Trump’s position on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) implemented by President Obama, also seems to be softening. DACA allows children brought into the country by undocumented parents to stay in the country and apply for work permits.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said there was no immediate change to how the agency handles applications and renewals under DACA, Politico reports.

So while Trump’s immigration policies may be softening a bit from the campaign, don’t expect a comprehensive solution soon.

H-2B and Other Guest-Worker Programs

When Trump spoke about guest-worker programs during the campaign, he spoke only about the H-1B visa program used predominantly by technology firms to hire specialized talent. After a March primary debate, Trump issued a statement that, if elected, “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program.”

Last week, Trump doubled down on his distaste for the H-1B program, sending shivers through the tech community. A draft executive order is circulating within the administration to curb the use of H-1B visas. Whether this executive order will include other guest-worker programs, such as H-2B visas used by landscape contractors, is not clear. Administration spokesman Sean Spicer said the H-1B visa issue is part of a larger administration effort on immigration.

One bright spot may be that Trump himself makes extensive use of the H-2B seasonal worker program in his hotels and golf courses. It’s unlikely that he would cripple a program that’s so important to his own (or his children’s) business interests.

Regulations

In his second week, Trump issued an executive order saying any new regulation put forward by a federal agency must rescind two other regulations. In a statement at the signing of the executive order, Trump said his goal is to reduce regulations by at least 75 percent. This action is consistent with his rhetoric throughout the campaign.

Two regulations affecting landscape contractors that will probably fall first are the Waters of the U.S. regulation (WOTUS) and the new federal overtime rule. Both regulations, the former by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the latter by the Department of Labor, have been suspended by federal courts. Trump can simply not defend the regulations in court and let any adverse ruling stand.

Regulations that are already in place, such as the new pesticide certification regulations, cannot be simply thrown out. A regulation has the force of law, and removing it requires the same long process it took to put the regulation in place.

Another way for the Trump Administration to thwart federal regulations is by the budget process. Trump can simply cut the budgets of specific programs within agencies that make it impossible to enforce certain regulations.

The Trump Administration’s “action plan” for EPA includes $513 million in cuts to climate research, Clean Air Act greenhouse gas regulations, auto efficiency standards, Clean Water Section 404: WOTUS Rule and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on developments from the Trump administration and how they may affect your business. Watch this space!

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About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at gregg.robertson@conewagoventures.com.

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