Monday, April 15, 2013

Forecast for Snow and Ice on Capitol Hill



This is a next step is a series of many to help improve our industry and I’m thankful we have the backing and support of the association management industry and government leaders who are willing to lend a hand and help.

By Phill Sexton
On March 18 and 19, SIMA CEO Martin Tirado and I had the opportunity to meet with House and Senate representatives on Capitol Hill. All of them were very responsive listening to the issues that affect snow & ice management professionals and other small business owners who are members of SIMA. What impressed me the most was their willingness to meet with us and the increased level of interest and urgency they expressed regarding some of the issues they had no idea existed. Martin and I met with our respective congressional representatives from Wisconsin and New York. I personally met with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, and offices of Congressmen Tonko and Gibson. I was able to spend a few minutes with Congressman Tonko himself, who lives in a snow belt area of Upstate, NY, and expressed personal interest for snow & ice management professionals and is anxious to learn more about the issues.

I give particular credit to Congressman Tonko and his staff who ended up meeting with me for a little over 45 minutes during what was originally slated to be a standard 15 minute meeting opportunity. They offered particular focus and dialog about issues related to insurance liability created by frivolous slip and fall lawsuits and the potential need for common sense reform of lawsuit abuse. SIMA has been invited back to continue dialog about this issue in future months, which we plan to do when we partner with PLANET’s legislative day on the hill in July. 

3 main issues representatives heard from SIMA that directly impact the snow & ice management industry included:
  1. Proposed Reform of Lawsuit Abuse. We spoke with everyone we met regarding the issues of frivolous slip and fall claims and how they are affecting both the cost of doing business and the ability (or inability) to obtain the necessary insurance coverage. Every representative office expressed they had no awareness of this issue and wanted to learn more. We also discussed the inequity of liability between property owners and service providers, as well as how liability had been increasingly transferred solely on the service provider over the past decade or more, which is a larger contributor to insurance issue equation. 
  2. Comprehensive Immigration Labor Reform. The representatives I met with seemed to be aware of the issues for small business finding qualified seasonal labor and said they will support legislation to ease the process for obtaining workers. They realize this affects not only the snow and landscape management industries and recognize it as a broader issue for all service industries and agriculture. We did briefly discuss specific proposed legislation for the H2b program without much new information offered by any of the representatives we met with. We plan to continue discussing these issues with them during our next visit in July while also adopting PLANET’s position on this issue.
  3. Health Care Reform and the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA). We spoke about how small businesses need simple, straightforward answers and solutions to offer their employees adequate and affordable health care coverage and the need for minimizing the regulatory burdens on the business community to the greatest extent possible. I didn’t receive much in the way of feedback on this issue other than a nod of understanding and agreement on this issue.  
I appreciate Martin’s support in helping represent the snow & ice management industry. Furthermore I thank the state representatives from Wisconsin and New York for providing us their time and focused attention to listen and understand the issues affecting our industry. This is a next step is a series of many to help improve our industry and I’m thankful we have the backing and support of the association management industry and government leaders who are willing to lend a hand and help.   

To find out more how SIMA is advocating for the industry and you the members, including legislative updates and to download a copy of SIMA’s Legislative Position Statement, I encourage you to visit www.sima.org/advocacy. Also feel comfortable to contact me directly phill@sima.org.

Looking forward to our return to Capitol Hill in July! We will keep you updated.

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