Golf and the election aftermath

The PGA of America
Issues of interest to the golf industry ranging from immigration reform to environmental regulations could be addressed by Congress in the coming months, says GCSAA consultant Robert Helland.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, November 22, 2012 | 12:59 a.m.

What does the recent national election mean for the golf industry? Robert Helland, an adviser with the law firm Reed Smith and lobbyist for the Golf Course Superintents Association of America, recently offered his analysis to the GCSAA.

With the Democrats keeping control of the Presidency and the Senate, and the Republicans remaining in control of the House of Representatives, members of both parties are talking about finding common ground on the fiscal cliff and other major financial issues. That makes it more likely that a compromise on spending and taxation matters will occur by the end of the calendar year as part of a lame-duck session of Congress, he said.

It also means that action might occur on a number of other matters of interest to the golf industry, including disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy, immigration reform and environmental matters, either during the lame-duck session or when the next Congress begins in January. And, he warned, all revenue increases are on the table, including those that could hurt the golf industry.

The industry has been following the Farm Bill, which sets spending levels for farm commodities, said Helland, as a vehicle for removing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Pesticide General Permit, which regulates how golf courses handle certain pesticides that leave a residue. And with a disaster relief bill, he said, the industry wants to make sure that golf courses are included – that hasn’t been the case in previous disaster relief measures dating back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Resolution of environmental issues affecting air and water are also possible in the next Congress, Helland predicted. It isn’t clear, however, what other environmental issues could pass a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, but he expects, at the least, for there to be some additional pressure to address climate change issues, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

There are those in Congress who object to any assistance being provided to the golf industry at all, said Helland. Some on the left think that golf shouldn’t get financial assistance because it has the means to pay for – or deserves – any burden placed upon it. And on the right, he noted, some believe that helping any industry that caters to a leisure activity is wrong.

We have seen in the past that members of Congress can move a bill either on their own or as part of a broader omnibus measure. Unfortunately, Helland said, this can be done very late in the process, when opposition cannot be registered effectively. It is important, he stressed, to stay close with golf’s allies and, perhaps more importantly, to do the same with its adversaries. To best serve golf's interests, he recommends that the industry keep an ongoing relationship with both local elected representatives and other members of Congress who have leverage over the issues that affect golf the most.

Face-to-face meetings with senators and representatives, and their staffs, help drive home the message that golf is both a driver of the economy and a steward of the environment, as do emails and phone calls. This communication also make legislators and regulators aware that their decisions have an impact on the millions who live, work and have a passion for the game, he concluded.

Among the golf industry’s efforts to maintain a strong presence in Washington is National Golf Day, when representatives from the GCSAA, PGA of America and other associations and industry partners meet with dozens of members of Congress to share stories and data about golf's diverse businesses, employees, tax revenue creation, tourism, charitable benefits and environmental leadership. Over the past five years, the industry has brought casts of storytellers to Capitol Hill to discuss what golf has meant to them, and continually shares data about golf's economic contributions to cash-strapped states around the nation.

For more information on National Golf Day, click here.