NJ Wholesalers Lobby Congress at SAF’s Congressional Action Days

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SkipRutlandBeardEric Levy of Hillcrest Garden, Inc. and Paul Fowle of Delaware Valley represented NJ floral interests at SAF’s annual Congressional Action Days in Washington DC on March 14th and 15th. Paul serves on the Board of SAF, and he is in charge of the Government Relations arm of SAF. So he emceed the various meetings that were held during the Congressional Action Days event. Skip Paul of Rutland Beard, who owns some flower shops in NJ also went on some of the meetings with the NJ contingent.

The two issues we lobbied on were ACA compliance and immigration. For the ACA compliance the law states that Obamacare uses a standard of 120 days to determine whether a seasonal employee should be counted as a full time equivalent (FTE) and included in the calculation to see if the florist or wholesaler should be categorized as a large employer or not. Large employers, those over 50 employees, have different responsibilities under Obamacare than do smaller employers. The Treasury Department categorizes seasonal workers using a six month standard. So the US government has two standards, that are at odd with each other. Paul, Eric and Skip lobbied our congressmen to support the STARS act, which is a proposed 1 page law, that would align the two standards into one standard, the 6 month measure. Congress is not getting a lot of laws passed these days because the two parties are so entrenched in their own ideologies. But this law seemed simple enough, and the legislative assistants we spoke with in the Booker, Menendez and Lobiondo offices seemed to indicate that they would sign on. We even got to meet the DV house representative himself, Lobiondo for a “grip & grin,” which is lobbyist speak for, they shake your hand and ask how you are doing, then they tell you they need to go now, so they can get to the house floor for a vote.

The other issue we lobbied on was immigration. The SAF position on immigration is that there needs to be some sort of guest worker program. Not amnesty, but some sort of way to allow illegals to pay taxes, fines, etc and have a temporary green card so they can work and come out of the shadows. Farms in major floral growing US states such as California and Florida, already cannot find enough workers. If Congress were to start deportations of 11 million illegal immigrants, the floral growers in the US would shut down, probably move offshore, and the rest of our U.S. economy would likely collapse in flames.

All the legislative assistants we spoke with told us that probably something on immigration would happen after the election, and it would most likely be some sort of a guest worker program. An interesting thing we learned about immigration while we attended CAD is that in the past illegal aliens would go back and forth across the border. Now, because the US has quadrupled the amount or border guards on the US – Mexican border, many illegal aliens become trapped in the US. They slip in, but they don’t dare slip out. That is the main reason why the illegal alien population has increased so much in the last decade.

SAF stays at a hotel in Alexandria, VA instead of downtown Washington DC, because the room rates are less. The room rate is still expensive, and attending this event is not cheap. But it’s important for the industry that we talk with our congressmen about these issues. Skip, Paul and Eric would love to have other NJ floral companies join us for Congressional Action days in March of 2017. If you need more information about the event, you can call Eric Levy at Hillcrest Garden, Inc, 201-599-3030. If you are a florist, and you are not interested in attending, we would urge you to talk with your wholesaler and encourage them to attend. Right now we have two NJ wholesalers attending, (Hillcrest and DV) and we would love to have more.