By Ronnie Miles, Director of Advocacy, NGCOA
The government affairs professionals and lobbyists who represent the WE ARE GOLF (WAG) partner organizations have created the following list of focus issues proposed for National Golf Day 2021. This will be the first National Golf Day event held virtually.
It also happens to take place after the November 2020 national elections. Democrats are now in control of the Senate, House of Representatives and hold the presidency. There are 6 new Senators and 60 new House members which we should attempt to meet with for the first time while continuing to share with all offices the core WAG values messages, including: golf as an economic engine, philanthropic industry, health/wellness, social/recreational, and environmental steward.
Golf as a sport had its highest number of rounds played during 2020 despite a global health pandemic. The industry came together in an unprecedented way and worked with the federal government to create the Back2Golf guidelines. The guidelines provide operators with an updated playbook that helps keep golf facilities open based on medically endorsed best practices and the socially distanced opportunities the sport provides. Members of Congress need to know about this.
National Golf Day 2021 allows the industry to continue to maintain and enhance the positive momentum the sport has seen the last 12 months. Let’s reflect on the great year we have had and maintain that positivity. The below agenda reflects this desire.
1. Golf Properties as Environmental Stewards
Best Management Practices — Golf courses that are maintained through science-based agronomic and environmental best management practices (BMPs) provide healthy greenspaces and wildlife habitat that benefit everyone. BMPs demonstrate golf’s professional aptitude and attitude as responsible businesses and stewards of the land and resources. The golf industry has spearheaded the documentation and communication of golf’s professional management through the creation of BMP manuals at U.S. golf courses. BMPs include four focus areas: water conservation, water quality protection, pollution prevention and energy conservation. State BMP guidelines are developed in partnership with universities, conservation groups, water groups and state agencies including state departments of agriculture, environmental protection, natural resources and more. The golf industry met its goal of having all 50 states with comprehensive BMP guidelines/programs in place by the end of 2020. We want to make as many people on Capitol Hill as possible aware of the “BMP 50 by 2020” Initiative and demonstrate golf’s commitment to environmental protection of human health and the environment.
2. Increasing Participation in Golf and Promoting its Health Benefits
The PHIT Act — Golf stands out among outdoor recreational activities as a lifelong sport that can be played across multiple generations. The “Personal Health Investment Today Act” (PHIT Act) can help more people get out and try golf and play golf with 25-37% reductions in costs for things like lessons, camps, clinics and equipment. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress was able to see how important it is for individuals to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to have opportunities to support the mental health of Americans. We ask you to support the bipartisan PHIT Act by becoming a co-sponsor and by asking your Congressional leaders to include it in any healthcare or tax legislation currently under negotiation. Currently, the PHIT Act has not been reintroduced in the 117th Congress. For reference, the bill numbers from the 116th Congress were S. 680 and H.R. 1679.
3. Golf Businesses and Current Labor Issues
H-2B Visas — The golf industry will rely heavily on the H-2B visa program to fill positions this spring that American workers are unable or unwilling to fill. However, the Department of Homeland Security announced on February 12, 2021 that the 33,000 H-2B Visa cap was exhausted. It is imperative that DHS and DOL release the 64,716 additional visas authorized by Congress under the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Small businesses and employers throughout the golf industry continue to be unnecessarily harmed as they try to address critical seasonal staffing needs. The H-2B program protects the jobs of the full-time, year- round Americans who rely on H-2B workers to sustain their jobs. Every H-2B worker supports 4.64 American jobs. We ask you to press DOL and DHS immediately expand the H-2B visas cap to the number approved by Congress.
**This issue will be updated closer to National Golf Day. We do not have a bill number yet for a bill that would preserve and protect the overall H-2B visa program.
OTHER ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION
The below issues were also considered for inclusion on the agenda for the 2021 virtual National Golf Day event. These issues have the potential to be more contentious and would be better handled by the core group of CEOs representing golf in meetings during National Golf Day, based on guidance, advice and strategic advice provided by WAG’s newly hired Washington, DC, based representation.
- Sin List – golf’s extraction from the IRS tax code
- PRO Act – strengthening union organization efforts and altering how independent contractors are recognized
- Tax bills – the next tax code reform bill is a threat to golf and the government will be looking for ways to offset the costs of the COVID relief bills
- Bills regarding the compensation of college athletes – lobbyists are continuing to monitor any bills that threaten non dues revenue generating sports programs being cut at the collegiate level
Please visit wearegolf.org/national-golf-day for event information.