A level playing field in Illinois

ASCA Update - Director’s Note

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September 27, 2016
kevin gilbride

Last month, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, signed into law The Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act (Senate Bill 2138). This is the ASCA’s model legislation, which we created, introduced, and lobbied hard for throughout the process.

In May of 2015, ASCA staff and a group of Illinois members descended upon Springfield to introduce our model legislation. We succeed in getting sponsors from both sides of the aisle, securing bi-partisan support for the bill. We followed up with letters, meetings, and phone calls to maintain momentum and achieve forward progress. The Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA) also jumped on board to support these efforts and the bill. In May of this year, I testified on behalf of the industry and ASCA members in the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee.

Later that month, the bill passed unanimously through the Illinois Senate, and shortly thereafter, it received unanimous support in the House. It was sent to Governor Rauner on June 29th, and signed on Aug. 25th, a mere 15 months after its introduction.

While the legislation had unanimous support, the bill was not without its opposition. The ASCA worked behind the scenes to massage the language in the original bill to bring fairness to all of the parties involved. The obvious opposition to this bill were your clients. However, after working with their association representatives, we came to terms on acceptable language and achieved our goals as an industry. Once the legislation hit the floor of the Illinois House, we had already overcome any objections to the bill. David Manning, with the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association, did a great job navigating these conversations.

This law now makes indemnification agreements and hold-harmless language passing liability from the property owner or property managers to the contractor null and void in Illinois. For example, if a customer wants a two-inch trigger, and they have an indemnification clause that says the snow contractor is responsible for any and all incidents or injuries related to snow or ice, that clause is unenforceable with an injury and only one-inch of snow on the ground. In a scenario where the customer tells you not to salt, then they are responsible.

At the same time, if a snow and ice manager contracted to provide service does a poor job that results in a personal injury, then that contractor is responsible.

This legislation is straight forward and simply places responsibility on the appropriate party.

Earlier in August, at Executive Summit, I had an interesting conversation with Illinois snow contractor Peter Smolka, of Everest Snow Management. Peter had been instrumental in lobbying for the ASCA legislation in his state from the first legislative day in Springfield to the governor’s desk.

During our conversation, Peter noted that while a fair amount of hard work and persistence was involved, the entirety of the legislative effort was a lot easier than he first anticipated.

Peter said to me that we are always lead to believe that government is broken and that our elected officials can never get anything accomplished. But the experience so far taught him that this notion really isn’t the case. He marveled that once the meetings were set, the industry’s story was told, and the elected officials were educated on the issue at hand, the positive momentum generated carried it the rest of the way.

“I guess government really does work,” he concluded.

Peter wasn’t far off the mark with his observation. Many of us have bought into the thinking that nothing ever changes, so why bother putting in the effort to try?

Well, I’m here to point out that within 15 months the actions of a small upstart association and its membership resulted in some pretty important positive legislative change in Illinois for the professional snow and ice management industry.

So just image what we could accomplish together – as an industry – if more of you were involved at the grassroots level?

The ASCA continues to work in all snow-industry states for the introduction and adoption of this same legislation. At this time, the ASCA has succeeded in getting our bill introduced in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana. ASCA staff and membership are working diligently to get these bills moving, and we are close to the finish line in many others.

It’s important to understand that the ASCA has not accomplished this on our own. These efforts require membership because dues support these important legislative initiatives. For this legislation to become law in your state, we encourage you to join ASCA and actively support the cause the local level. Working together we have the ability to deliver powerful story to those who can help level the playing field for our industry.

Kevin Gilbride is ASCA’s executive director.