The 2017 ASCA Legislative Day on the Hill in Washington, DC was our best yet. Most ASCA attendees agree our fourth year provided us a greater sense of comfortably and effectiveness. This year we focused on connecting with senatorial offices to push forward the Lawsuit Reduction Act Of 2015 (LARA). The LARA legislation has already passed through the US House of Representatives with flying colors and has the best opportunity in years to pass the with our current senate.
Prior to 1993 liability insurance for snow and ice management was at least comparable to insurance for landscape services for most of us in the industry offering both service. Then, a slight change in law was enacted that no longer required judges to consider a “frivolous lawsuit” plea from an insurance company lawyer, but rather started what has become a descent into practical uninsurability for some in our industry.
LARA simply returns things as they were and requires everyone play on a level playing field. If a plaintiff is found to be engaged in a frivolous lawsuit, then a judge must accept that motion and can assess damages and reimbursement for legal fees, as a deterrent to the frivolous lawsuits currently plaguing our industry.
However, as much as this groundbreaking piece of legislation would impact our industry in so many positive ways, including saving many companies tens of thousands of dollars annually, it would also curb the incredible number of frivolous lawsuits impacting many other businesses and citizens in each state. This year, we expanded from focusing only on snow states to trying to meet with 100 senate offices from each of the 50 states. Approximately 40 of your fellow snow and ice management professionals together met with nearly 50 senate offices in a single day getting our message out.
Over three years we have met with the majority of senate offices at least once. This year, we had a number of significant meetings with new senate offices that are seemingly on the fence or were not even aware of this legislation. Overall, our message has been received with much appreciation and understanding from members of both parties. In some cases, our consistency in showing up year after year seems to be warming even the opposition to our industry and message.
One of the most incredible meetings was with Hawaii of all states! One of our members was able to utilize an article concerning Hawaiian lifeguards facing frivolous lawsuits from those they are trying to save. Sound familiar? These emergency service providers share the same concerns and unfair legal situation that we do as snow and ice management professionals. One of the Hawaiian senators, a Democrat, represents not only a possible advocate and vote, but hopefully, a potential co-sponsor to LARA!
We are in conversations with not only Hawaii, but also several other Democratic senators to find a co-sponsor to this legislation, sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, chair of the powerful judiciary committee. Senator Grassley’s office was very complimentary of our efforts, encouraging us to continue our grass roots efforts to find support and a co-sponsor, as well as to provide our own stories to their office to help substantiate the need for this legislation, given that our industry as repeatedly been described as the “poster child” for LARA.