Matt Esch, Nate Weaver and Rep. John Roth

Photo caption: MNLA leaders, President Nate Weaver of MI Wood Fibers (middle) and Director-at-Large Matt Esch, Esch Landscaping (left) meet with Representative John Roth from Traverse City.

Legislative Day 2024 participants

Photo, From left: Amy Upton, Jon Geer, Ryan Weesies, Hugh McGillivray, Elliot Rudert, Matthew Ross, Shannon Fischer, Heather Peacock, Nate Weaver, Doug Bonnell, Matt Esch, Chuck Martin, and MNLA's Lobbyist Marcia Hune.

On March 20, MNLA Members arrived in Downtown Lansing for our annual Green Industry Legislative Day. We met at MNLA’s lobby firm Governmental Consulting Services Inc. (GSCI) and our Lobbyist, Marcia Hune, briefed us on our message and the protocol for our visits. We then walked over and visited every office in our Legislature to give our message and leave them with a beautiful plant.

Our message highlighted the size and scope of the Green Industry, our Legislative Priorities, and this year we focused on three legislative and regulatory issues for the Green Industry; Unemployment Issue and a work search waiver, Senate Bill No. 645, and House Bill No. 4858.

1.    Unemployment Issue – Work Search Waiver
Employers request waivers during periods of short-term unemployment periods because they want their workforce to be available and return to work as requested. The need for the worker to register and seek other employment is not necessary, as the workers will be returning to their job.

Currently, one of the requirements of receiving unemployment insurance is that each of our employees must “conduct and report a weekly work search to be eligible for unemployment benefits”. This has proven extremely detrimental to our industry as we are losing our temporarily laid off skilled, trained, and educated professionals.

The effects of this on our industry are loss of workforce for our regular season and during our winter snow and ice removal season, which has impeded growth of our businesses by up to 30% and has caused some of our businesses to close their doors.

Solution: Extend the current 45-day waiver from having to seek work for employees that are temporarily laid off and have a weather dependent return-to-work date.

2.    Senate Bill No. 645
For decades, Michigan has had a registry that individuals can subscribe to that will allow them to be notified of a nearby pesticide application.  Industry, the Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders, along with the Michigan Legislature, have continued to refine the registry to ensure it is effective and successful throughout time, even as recently as 2018.  SB 645 looks to undo these efforts and reverses course, creating an onerous, unnecessary and undue burden on the Department and the industry.

Creating a registry that will consume valuable time and resources of the Department distracts them from more necessary work enforcing cases of potentially dangerous pesticide misuse.

Solution: Continue to rely on sound science and the work that has been done and leave the notification guidelines for the Pesticide Registry unchanged.

3.    House Bill No. 4858
As introduced, this Bill would ban the use of a specific insecticide (neonicotinoids or neonics for short) on public lands and would allow the governing body of a local unit of government to enact an ordinance that regulates the use of this product.

Solution: This goes directly against our Legislative Priority #4: to protect state law that makes State Agencies the sole regulator of pesticides and promote uniform, statewide regulations over a patchwork of local ones. Pesticides are a broad class of products that licensed professionals use in the Green Industry to protect environmentally beneficial landscapes and public health.  The regulation of these products is best left to the experts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department of Agriculture, not local governments.

The responses that our Members received while visiting the offices was very positive and included time with the staff, and some of our Members were able to meet directly with the Legislators. In all instances, we received strong interest and a willingness to support our industry. There were many requests for additional information and the appreciation continued to come from legislative offices after our Legislative Day had ended. In all respects this was a very successful Green Industry Legislative Day!

Our appreciation goes to our good friends at Hortech, Inc. for providing the beautiful plants that we gave out to every legislative office. Our appreciation also goes to everyone that participated in this year’s Green Industry Legislative Day! Together, speaking with one voice, we made a difference for our Great, Green Industry!

Succulent donated by Hortech