Outdoor Power Equipment, March, 2006 by Mike Hudson
With a broom held high in the air, Arizona Brown
Cloud Summit Sub-committee Chairman Anne Wendell stated,
"Banning leaf blowers is a no-brainer." It was everything I
could do to keep from jumping up and describing another use for
that broom that hadn't crossed Wendell's mind. Fortunately, I
kept my seat and calmed down enough to testify later at that
Nov. 28, 2000, meeting held in Phoenix. Since then, I have
participated in a number of other proceedings. Lessons I learned
along the way can help you challenge new regulations that affect
the outdoor power equipment you sell and service.
RECOGNIZE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM
Your chances of successfully challenging a
regulation dramatically increase if you are involved early in
the legislative process. Many in the local Arizona landscape
industry saw a summer 2000 Phoenix newspaper article that
announced the Governor's Brown Cloud Summit. We were easy
targets because no one in the landscape/OPE industry attended
meetings until after another article came out, announcing a
summit recommendation to ban leaf blowers.
ORGANIZE A GROUP
Following the recommendation to ban leaf blowers
more than five years ago, the central Arizona landscape industry
organized. We are all much more cautious about any piece of
information that might indicate potential regulatory problems.
If anything pops up, we contact each other, and check out the
threat. As a group, we have faced a number of other state and
city laws since that attempt to ban leaf blowers in 2000.
PRESENT A UNITED FRONT
Once the threat of new OPE regulation has been
identified, the landscape industry group needs to discuss the
It is very important that all concerned put up a
united front. Let's say you face a city that wants to pass a
noise ordinance that restricts the use of power yard equipment
before 9 a.m. You can't have one landscape company recommending
8 a.m., another land scaper saying he'll accept 7 a.m., and a
golf course that will not allow any restrictions before 6 a.m.
Establish a consensus that all concerned can agree on, and stick
to it when speaking to the city about the proposed ordinance.
Last year, the town of Paradise Valley, Ariz.,
started to work on a comprehensive noise ordinance package,
which included some restrictions on power yard equipment. Early
on, the town contacted Echo Power Equipment for information on
leaf blower noise. Larry Will from
Echo alerted me of the pending action. I was
able to establish a positive contact with the town even before
the proposed ordinance was announced in the newspaper.
The Paradise Valley noise ordinance situation
turned out to be a best-case scenario for the local landscape
industry. We were notified early of pending action, we offered
assistance to the town, and the town came up with an ordinance
that was acceptable to all industry leaders.
The worst-case scenario happened when Arizona
State Representative Christine Weason introduced House Bill
#2109 in January 2001. The bill recommended the banning of leaf
blowers in central Arizona. Her bill was endorsed by the
Governor's Brown Cloud Summit, American Lung Association of
Arizona, Arizona Public Health Association and the Sierra Club.
Without opposition, this bill could have passed.
The National Federation of Independent Business
(NFIB) Arizona Director Michelle Bolton organized the landscape
industry testimony on HB 2109 at the state environmental
committee hearing in January 2001. The following guidelines used
at that hearing can work with any testimony at a public meeting.
SELECT SPEAKERS: Speakers need to be able to get
their point across and be knowledgeable about the topic they are
covering. Remember, lawmakers may ask questions. Select speakers
with different backgrounds. You may want to have speakers from a
large landscape company, a small landscape company, a golf
course, and an OPE dealer.
SELECT TOPICS: All speakers need to be
consistent in their opposition to the regulation, but each topic
should be different. Topics could include how the regulation
will negatively impact their business, as well as product noise
improvements, exhaust emissions improvements, or safety
TIME LIMITS: Public meetings usually establish
time limits of two to five minutes per speaker. Speakers need to
present the topic, stay on track, and not duplicate other
STAY POSITIVE: Speakers might have to sit
silently through an hour of testimony from people supporting the
regulation they oppose. Then, the speaker has to get up and
present the topic in a few minutes without attacking or blaming
others. Not everyone can do that.
LIMIT OUTSIDE EXPERTS: You are perceived as the
local expert on the topic you are delivering. Your lawmakers
would rather hear from their constituents.
USE HANDOUTS: Supplement your verbal testimony
by handing out documents that support your topic. Include
colorful graphs or pictures for lawmakers to quickly glance at.
This is a good time to also hand over copies of letters or
petitions that support your topic. Another effective way to
influence lawmakers is with a letter campaign. If there is a
regulation pending that would
harm your business, send letters to lawmakers in
both your home and business legislative districts. Encourage
other employees at the company to do the same. Avoid form
letters. E-mail is now the most effective way to send
information to lawmakers.
Guidelines for getting your letter noticed
include keeping it short, staying on target, and being positive.
Make sure you write about how this regulation will affect you
and your job. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself. If the
letter campaign is organized by a group, forward a copy to all
members. Copies of letters can be used to support testimony.
I am sure most of you have heard stories like,
"Running a lawnmower for a half-hour pollutes the air as much as
driving a car from Los Angles to Chicago." Sometimes data used
to support legislation makes about as much sense. I have found
state and county agencies to be approachable. Power landscape
equipment exhaust emissions statistics in one case I looked into
were based on a 1990 EPA study. That outdated emissions data was
then applied to current population estimates. Check out any
ordinance statistics you feel are inaccurate.
There are plenty of other official-looking OPE
studies available just a mouse click away. Many of these studies
are all the ammunition a "concerned" citizen or lawmaker needs
to propose legislation. If you think your company is safe from
lawn & garden equipment regulatory interference, GOOD LUCK.
If you would rather not rely on luck, look for
some allies now that will help when a problem occurs. At the
state level, the NFIB has done a fantastic job for us. For
regulation issues at the town, city and state levels, check out
your state landscape, nursery and golf course associations.
Don't just join an organization and pay your dues. Someone from
your company should attend agency meetings and be active. The
contacts you make while working with the agencies could be vital
if you have a problem.
The ceremonial broom has now been passed on to
Arizona State House Representative Kyrsten Sinema. Her attempt
to ban leaf blowers in central Arizona is House Bill #2846,
introduced Feb. 7, 2006. Watch for ordinance threats, get
organized, and be prepared to challenge OPE regulations that
affect your business.
I would like to recognize the local leadership
of A to Z Equipment Rentals & Sales, Arizona Landscape
Contractors Association, Arizona Nursery Association, and the
NFIB for their work on behalf of the OPE industry in Arizona.
Mike Hudson was Service Manager for Eagle
Distributing Inc. in Gilbert, Ariz. Eagle distributed commercial
lawn and garden equipment to eight western states. Its lines
included Echo, Little Wonder/Mantis, Scag, BlueBird, Yazoo/Kees,
Classen and Oregon. Hudson received the EETC's John Thompson
Memorial Service Manager of the Year award in April 2005.
Bibliography for: "Have a hand in halting OPE
Mike Hudson "Have a hand in halting OPE
regulations". Outdoor Power Equipment. FindArticles.com. 29 Mar,
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Larry Will, Vice President, retired