Anti-competitive restrictions must be ended

CNJ Editorial

Most state commissions are created to protect the public from incompetent or unscrupulous practitioners in a variety of fields that require a high level of training and skill. However, occasionally, a commission’s rule book seems more about protecting existing businesses from competition.

That is the case with a requirement by Arizona’s Structural Pest Control Commission that commercial landscapers get 3,000 hours of training before being allowed to apply weed killers that consumers can buy from any hardware store or plant nursery.

The rule unreasonably restricts people trying to get into the field, and the free-market Institute for Justice’s Arizona chapter has sued the state to change it.

We welcome the court battle but frankly hope our neighbor state’s officials will intervene and end the regulatory nonsense before untold tax dollars are spent trying to defend the indefensible.

As Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer reported, IJ filed the suit in behalf of two landscapers who were cited by the pest control agency after they were caught spraying weeds with two readily available products. In one case the landscaper was applying Round-Up vegetation killer and in the other case a pre-emergent weed preventer was being applied.

Gary Rissmiller, who employs one of the workers, said obtaining the 3,000 hours of training — the equivalent of 18 months at a full-time job — would severely hurt his business.

However, Lisa Gervase, executive director of the commission, defended the requirement as necessary to protect public health and the environment and said all 3,000 hours of training don’t have to be in the application of weed killers.

Certainly professional landscapers should be required to have a reasonable amount of training in the handling of chemicals — even those that can be bought over the counter. Many of these chemicals are not harmless, and have warning labels with detailed instructions on their safe use. Homeowners should read them carefully and use only according to the directions on the label.

Because professional landscapers likely are exposed more frequently to these chemicals, some formal training is probably in order.

The commission’s requirement shouldn’t be scrapped altogether. Rather, it should be modified so professional landscapers get the training they need to protect their own and the public’s health and safety.

It’s hard to imagine that being more than, say, 40 hours, followed by a requirement that trainees demonstrate proficiency.

The Structural Pest Control Commission — perhaps with a nudge from the Arizona Legislature — should reset its training requirement.

If it refuses to act, the courts should force an end to this anti-competitive restriction.