Industry Advocate: All politics is local

April 3, 2023 -  By
(Photo: webphotographeer/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Photo: webphotographeer/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

At the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), our Government Relations staff spends weekday mornings combing through thousands of pieces of legislation filed in all 50 states, plus D.C., looking for issues that, if passed, would have affected the green industry.

I am a big fan of federalism, with some notable exceptions. We should make political decisions at the most local level practicable. 

For instance, in Maine, legislators are concerned about the human and environmental risks of PFAS compounds. Legislators contemplated dozens of bills in the past session and a raft of new ones in this session. Contrast that to the issues important to the legislature in Oregon, where legislators pay great attention to the remediation of areas affected by wildfires. 

Is one issue more important than the other? I can tell you without much fear of contradiction that if the vast forests of Maine were to ignite, the legislature’s priorities would similarly change.

All politics is local

And this is what makes government relations so fascinating. As the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously observed, all politics is local. My own counter observation is that politicians don’t want a grouchy bald guy from out of town — like me — telling them how to run their state or even their town.

Here in Massachusetts, our state laws say that only the state can regulate the use of plant nutrients. A town on Cape Cod sought to challenge the status quo. Local landscapers who engaged in retail politics and relied on relationships built with their elected officials over the years convinced the town not to move forward. This is the ultimate key to success. Elected officials who listen to their constituents.

When a legislature introduces a bill, a committee of jurisdiction is assigned the bill. It is within this committee that all the hard work of deciding whether the bill should become law happens. At some point, the committee will host a hearing on the bill in which the elected officials will debate its merits and listen to public testimony.

Public testimony is a bit of a dog and pony show; I’ve seen people bring in stacks of medical records and perform original music to get their points across. In most states, you’ll get about three minutes in front of the committee to make your point. I can hardly introduce myself in three minutes, let alone explain a complicated point of a policy and why it would be a good or a bad idea to pass this bill.

We’re here to help

It is our goal at the NALP to do the legwork so that when we show up to testify, the politicians on the committee already know who we are. We already met with them to discuss, in detail, our feelings on the legislation. The three minutes affirm our position, a reminder of who we are and what we represent. We want those votes to be whipped long before we set foot in the committee room. But that is a lot of work.

To streamline that work, we established an Advocacy Contact Team (ACT) at NALP. This team is 100 percent member volunteers willing to engage with their state and local officials on issues important to the green industry. When NALP’s Government Relations staff tracks a bill or regulation, we’ll contact ACT members to review it and offer their thoughts on whether they’d support or oppose it.

Then, as the measure works its way through the process, we’ll engage with ACT members to offer testimony at committee hearings or to submit written comments. We also have the capability to launch email campaigns that target legislators and regulators with carefully crafted messages. 

Please consider signing up for the ACT. It’s a great way to effectively support the green industry and raise your image as an industry professional. We’ll teach and support you every step of the way. 

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