Institute for Justice Applauds Senate Bill Protecting Gardeners’ Right to Spray Weeds

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · May 3, 2006

Phoenix, Ariz.—Last night the Arizona Senate voted to allow gardeners and landscape maintenance workers the freedom to spray weeds without first jumping through unreasonable regulatory hoops. Senate Bill 1221, sponsored by Senator Barbara Leff, exempts small businesses from burdensome licensing requirements when they use products readily available to the general public.

“This marks a return to Arizona’s recognition of the right to earn an honest living free from excessive governmental interference,” declared Jennifer Barnett, staff attorney at the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. “Governor Napolitano should sign this bill and officially weed out the red tape that does nothing but protect the interests of large pest control companies at the expense of consumers and local entrepreneurs.”

On September 28, 2005, the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court against the Structural Pest Control Commission and on behalf of landscapers Gary Rissmiller and Larry Park, challenging the qualifying party license requirement for which they must demonstrate 3,000 hours of experience. Senate Bill 1221, if signed by Governor Napolitano, will likely solve the constitutional issues raised by the lawsuit.

Until 2003, Arizona exempted gardeners from licensing thus allowing them to provide incidental weed control. Senate Bill 1221 reinstates an exemption with some limitations—for example, exempted persons may not use herbicides labeled “restricted use” or “danger,” may not use sterilants, and may only spray using equipment holding eight gallons or less. In addition, whenever an exempted person sprays weeds, they are required to notify their customers with a treatment record. Importantly, if the Structural Pest Control Commission discovers a violation of these provisions, it must first provide a written warning and notice of the legal requirements before issuing a fine.

“One of the best things about this bill is the notice requirement—when the law changed in 2003 none of us knew about the licensing requirements until after we got fined for spraying weeds,” explained landscaper and IJ client Gary Rissmiller. “Now the SPCC has to give landscapers a chance to follow the law by explaining what the law says before they can issue a fine. Best of all, my company can go back to the level of service our customers expect, which includes spraying weeds.”

“I just wanted to be able to provide my customers the best service possible for their money, which includes spraying their weeds,” said Larry Park, a landscaper and IJ client. “I’ve been in this industry for years and it doesn’t make any sense to make me prove up to 3,000 hours spraying weeds just so I can spray the same stuff my customers can buy at the store down the street.”



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