Georgia: The drought
What happened: Confronted with a historic drought, the Georgia pool and spa industry also was being plagued by water restrictions that differed from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In 2007, several counties and cities were not allowing pools to be filled or even topped off using tap water. The severity of some restrictions, in addition to the inconsistency from one area to the next, was making it nearly impossible for professionals to do business.
Key to success: The industry pulled together, with the local chapter of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals hiring both a lobbyist and a public relations agency to work with government officials. The PR agency solicited as many sympathetic articles as possible, including a spot on National Public Radio, while lobbyists worked with government officials and helped mobilize industry professionals, some of whom became amateur government relations advocates as well. Builders and service technicians were enlisted to speak with local officials, testify at hearings and make public presentations.
Connecticut: The Building Code
What happened: After the entrapment death of a local child, the state changed how it addressed entrapment prevention. The state had required that safety vacuum release systems (SVRS) be installed on all new pools, but the building department had long waived the mandate. After the tragedy, officials not only began enforcing the requirement, but sought to retroactively invalidate waivers it had issued. The state building department even tried to force one builder to retrofit existing pools with SVRS’s.
Key to success: The Northeast Spa & Pool Association and the APSP banded together to help the builder appeal the building department’s decision and retain the waivers. In addition, NESPA has continued to educate the building department about changes to the International Building Code and International Residential Code, which haven’t required SVRS’s since 2009. The pool company continues to await a decision.
Texas: The barrage
What happened: In 2006, pools and spas appeared on the radar of state legislators, who deluged the industry with new bills, including one meant to require fencing around virtually all bodies of water, both new and existing, and another that would require SVRS’s or similar devices on all new pools. In one of the most recent changes, the state’s attorney general tried to restrict electrical work performed by pool and spa professionals to residential settings.
Key to success: The state formed a lobbying organization called the Aquatic Professionals Education Council to combat problematic bills and regulations. Since APEC’s founding, professionals have been recruited to perform various duties, such as calling local politicians and officials, writing letters, holding face-to-face meetings, and giving presentations. The group also hired a pair of professional lobbyists. To address the most recent electrical snare, APEC worked with legislators to introduce and pass a bill explicitly stating that pool and spa professionals can perform electrical work on commercial installations.
Florida: The divide
What happened: Earlier this year, the Florida legislature introduced a bill meant to bring the state code in line with the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The language would allow the same variety of entrapment-prevention options as the federal law, effectively undoing an existing requirement for gravity-drainage systems on commercial pools. The state’s industry found itself divided on this bill.
Key to success: Through its professional lobbyist, the Florida Swimming Pool Association initially opposed the law, citing safety reasons. It attempted to stall the bill to allow more time for negotiations. But that ultimately failed. The association was, however, able to work with the bill’s author to add language requiring that the equipment be installed by a licensed contractor, and that any devices used would have to provide protection against all forms of entrapment.
California: The ongoing battle
What happened: With the economic downturn, the underground economy has thrived, causing the industry to implore the state to ramp up its enforcement of contracting law. But California is suffering one of the worst state budget crises in the country, making it impossible to convince government officials to create new departments or positions.
Key to success: The state’s lobbying organization, SPEC, joined a coalition of construction-industry groups and government agencies concerned about the issue of illegal contracting. The coalition initiated two bills that would designate existing resources to step up the monitoring of companies claiming an exemption from workman’s compensation and other insurances. The bills passed this year.