Monday, May 16, 2016

Neonic bans in Illinois introduced in House and Senate

Illinois House Bill 5900 and Illinois Senate Bill 2965, better known as the Saving Illinois Pollinators Act, were introduced earlier this year in the 99th Illinois General Assembly. Both bills are in their early stages but have already added a significant amount of representative co-sponsors in both the Illinois House and Senate.

The bills are identical in their description and partially read as follows: Provides that beginning 9 months after the effective date of the Act, it shall be unlawful to apply any neonicotinoid insecticides on any public lands owned or maintained by Illinois. Provides that beginning 9 months after the effective date of the Act, it shall be unlawful to apply neonicotinoid insecticides in any other outdoor residential settings, including landscaping, ornamental, or other outdoor applications in Illinois. 

The bills also leave room to adopt any rules to further define or implement provisions within the act.

As of the publication of this post, the bills have been referred to the Rules Committee in the Illinois House of Representatives, and to the Assignments Committee in the Illinois Senate. Both of these committees are made up of three members of the majority party (Democrat), and two members of the minority party (Republican). These five individuals from each committee decide if the bill will be assigned to one of the standing committees in each the House and Senate, and if so, which committee. If House Bill 5900 and Senate Bill 2965 are assigned to standing committees, they would most likely be assigned to the Environment Committee in both areas of the Illinois General Assembly. 

During these Environment Committee hearings, the bill’s sponsors (Rep. Will Guzzardi in the House and Sen. Don Harmon in the Senate) explain the bills to the Environment Committee members. Individuals, including special interest groups, government agencies or private citizens can voice their opposition or support of a bill at this time. As of right now the Rules and Assignment Committee hearings for each bill have not been scheduled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Michigan courses discuss Fair Labor Standards Act

The Michigan Golf Course Owners Association recently held a seminar to discuss the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA was enacted in 1938, but, with proposed changes scheduled to take place later this year, the act has come under question recently. Much of the day's discussion impacted owners, however, many of the issues pertain to superintendents and include:

  • I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Forms - I-9 forms must be filled out and filed for every employee who works at the golf course, including all of those on the grounds crew. These forms should remain on file for a minimum of three years after the conclusion of employment for each employee. 
  • Non-Exempt vs. Exempt Employees - Non-exempt employees may be paid on an hourly basis, must earn at least minimum wage, and must be paid overtime for all hours over 40 worked in one work week. Exempt employees are generally salaried employees (many superintendents and assistants fall in this category), must be paid at least $455/week (proposed change would see this salary number jump to $921/week) and meet the job duties of one of the white collar exemptions.
  • Payroll Records - Along with I-9 forms, payroll records must be retained for a minimum of three years following the end of the year to which they relate.
  • Posting Requirements - All employers are required to post the FLSA minimum wage provision in an area where their employees congregate, such as the break room or lunch room. FLSA posting's vary by statues so please check the posters page to find out which postings you need to display in your facility. Postings typically change year-to-year, so instead of purchasing the large laminate posters, the forms can be printed on 8" x 11" sheets of paper and re-hung when changes occur.
  • Preventative Measures:
    • Regularly review time records for accuracy. Make sure any changes made to hours worked have both the supervisor's and employee in question's approval. 
    • Develop accurate job descriptions. Job descriptions are important. Be sure the description is written based on the job itself, and the not the person currently performing the job. It is also important, under the 'Duties and Responsibilities' area of the description to add: 'Additional duties assigned by the supervisor'. 

This only covers a brief snapshot of the entire FLSA, as the act covers additional information. I would encourage you to visit the DOL's FLSA website for more information on the FLSA, and to review the proposed changes which may directly impact your facility and employees.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Chapter Leaders/Executives Symposium

The Chapter Leaders/Executive Symposium wrapped up last week at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. The symposium features chapter members and executives from 25 affiliated chapters scattered across the nation. The goal of the symposium is to provide leadership training, offer development to chapters and discuss components necessary for chapter success. It also allows GCSAA an opportunity to communicate services and programs available to GCSAA chapters and members.

GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans kicked off the event with a passionate presentation on working as a team to create successful events. Rhett highlighted the importance of individuals and the roles they play when planning events. He also stressed chapters must know the member's needs and expectations they have when attending, or deciding to attend these events. Chapters must work together within their organizations to make sure these needs and expectations are being exceeded.

Following Rhett's presentation, Bill Hamilton, CGCS, and Irene Cline from the Sierra Nevada chapter gave a presentation on an outreach event put on in an under-served area of their chapter. Bill and Irene focused the education portion of the event on issues which were directly facing the area where the event was taking place. They also spoke on how holding events in similar areas can create a sense of community and encourage members to become more involved. Brian Laurent of the Miami Valley GCSA, Central Ohio GCSA and Greater Cincinnati GCSA gave an informational presentation on selecting and implementing a new website to communicate with chapter members.

Updates were also given by GCSAA staff on: marketing campaigns, the upcoming redesigned GCSAA website, Chapter Outreach Grants, National Golf Day, Grassroots Ambassadors, Rounds 4 Research, social media etiquette and upcoming Golf Industry Shows. Both days concluded with attendees breaking in to roundtable based on region and topics.

The second day began with Steve Randall, GCSAA's director of chapter outreach, giving a spirited presentation on leadership and how the outreach program has evolved over the past 10 years. Steve stressed the importance of communication and challenged everyone in the room to become a better communicator, leader and person.

The day-and-a-half event was full of education, ideas and training opportunities which can be used at each chapter, regardless of size or location. The event also allowed each participant to network with peers and develop both professional and personal relationships. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Grassroots Ambassadors in action!

Grassroots Ambassadors Zach Wike and Jason Mahl from the Miami Valley GCSA and I recently spent the day at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. The agenda for the day featured meetings with five Ohio state senators and representatives from the Miami Valley region. The goal of these meetings was to advocate on behalf the turfgrass/golf management profession, and forge lasting relationships with local representatives who influence laws and regulations that effect our profession.

Throughout the day, we met with Representatives Bob Hackett, Rick Perales and Fred Strahorn, along with staff members from Senators Bill Beagle and Peggy Lehner's office.

During each meeting, we presented the representative or senator a brochure focusing on three key areas of Ohio golf: economic impact, water quality and environmental habitats. We also introduced them to GCSAA's Grassroots Ambassador program, the First Green Foundation and explained our positions on key federal issues such as WOTUS and H-2B. In addition to these subjects, we also provided examples of the professionalism and environmental stewardship golf course superintendents exhibit each day.

Some of the key talking points we focused on were:

  • Golf's $4.8 billion economic impact in Ohio 
  • 68,000 jobs created by the golf industry in Ohio, with $1.5 billion in wage income
  • Charitable giving of $155 million annually 
  • Golfs impact on related industries such as tourism and hospitality
  • Golf's water use has dropped by 22 percent nationally over the past decade
  • Golf uses less than 1.5 percent of all irrigated water in the U.S.
  • Wildlife sanctuaries and pollinator habitats golf courses provide
  • Recreation, fitness and training opportunities offered by golf courses

In each meeting, the representative or staff members were very inviting and receptive to our message. These relationships will build a foundation for future meetings and give us a seat at the table when regulations are drafted that effect our profession. Since the meetings, Representative Bob Hackett has scheduled a fundraiser outing at Beavercreek Golf Club where Zach Wike serves as the assistant superintendent. A big thank you goes out to Zach and Jason for taking time out of their schedules to set-up and attend these important advocacy efforts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Golf Industry Show recap

GIS always seems to creep up on the calendar, and when the week does arrive, it seems to go by in a similar fashion.

Although I wasn't able to attend the GCSAA Golf Championships, I heard great things about the course conditions, weather, camaraderie and competition. A big thank you goes out to the superintendents who played in the various competitions, and also to those superintendents and their crews who hosted the GCSAA Golf Championships. Their hard work makes the event possible.

As this was my first GIS as a field staff representative, my week was a little different than in years past, and I wanted to share with you some of my favorite moments:

  • First off, thank you to all of the attendees who had their registration email or print-out handy, as registration with the QR (Quick Response) codes went smoothly with little to no trouble. It kept what little line there was moving quickly.

  • With 25 new seminars and sessions offered this year, the education portion had something for everyone. I was fortunate to sit in on a couple sessions Monday afternoon, and was glad I did. I am always impressed by the level of education and preparedness of superintendents and industry professionals who teach the seminars and sessions, they truly provide relevant and timely information.  

  • The Opening Session held on Tuesday night saw the various GCSAA awards handed out to well-deserving individuals. This is a fun event which is followed by the Opening Night Celebration which was held on the terrace of the convention center. The event featured food, drink, networking and wonderful weather.

  • I attended the Chapter Executive and Chapter Editor's session on Tuesday which is an excellent networking opportunity and idea-sharing platform. Chapter executives from around the country (and Canada) get together to exchange information on what is and isn't working when planning chapter meetings, publishing newsletters and magazines, scheduling social events and creating education line-ups. Rhett Evans kick-started the meeting by introducing some of the 2016 GCSAA initiatives and priorities. The field staff team – myself included – were able to brief the executives on initiatives in our respective regions and give them an update on current focuses. 

  • Wednesday the field staff team and GCSAA Board of Directors were able to meet with chapter presidents at the annual Chapter Presidents Breakfast. This event is set-up similar to the Chapter Executives Session, where chapter presidents are able to network, share ideas and focus on areas chapters are looking to improve. The event also allows chapter presidents to meet the GCSAA board of directors and have a Q&A session with them. Wednesday, I was also able to work the GCSAA booth on the trade show floor. Getting out on the trade show floor is always a highlight of the week, everyone is excited to meet with vendors and catch up with old friends.

  • This was my first time attending GCSAA's annual meeting, which was held on Thursday and saw the proposed bylaw changes, member standards and definition of the Class A superintendent all pass after the voting was conducted by the chapter delegates. The annual meeting is a fun and interesting event as you get to see the voting process first-hand and meet many of GCSAA's past presidents in attendance. 

  • The GIS concluded with the Closing Celebration. This event was extremely well-attended, and, in my opinion an excellent way to wrap up the week. Turf Bowl awards were presented which allowed everyone to get into their school spirit (maybe NC State will field a team next year), and comedian Frank Caliendo put on a hilarious show. If you haven't attended a Closing Celebration over the past few years, I highly recommend you do, it's well worth your time. 

Thank you to all those who attended GIS and to the vendors and sponsors who make this great event happen each year. Already looking forward to Orlando!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Strategic planning sessions for your chapter

This week, Steve Randall and I facilitated a strategic planning session with a local Great Lakes chapter. This was my first time working with a chapter in this capacity. Not only was it a lot of fun (honestly), I was very pleased with the process and outcome.

The first step in orchestrating a strategic planning session is to have a chapter board that is willing to exert the time and commitment to outline and institute specific goals for the chapter, this chapter had just that. The board knew the chapter was functioning at a high level and has been well-managed, but wanted to focus in on a few key areas for the coming year and beyond.

The strategic planning process is pretty simple and begins with board members stating what they hope to 'get out' of the planning process. Once this is covered, a SCOR analysis is completed on the chapter by the board. After we have the strengths, challenges, opportunities and risks of the chapter, the group then votes and focuses in on the couple most important bullet points from each SCOR area.

Strategic planning:

Establishing your chapter's framework for the future.

This information is now used to lay the groundwork for short and long-term goals. Whether it is addressing the chapter mission and vision, communication, chapter meetings, budgets, member participation or working with allied associations, the strategic planning process focuses resources on areas that will have a significant impact on the chapter moving forward. Not only can you now focus on these areas to improve chapter operations, it also sets timelines and assigns committees to complete these goals.

If your chapter has not participated in a strategic planning meeting, or it's been a handful of years since your last session, I highly encourage you to host a strategic planning session. Steve Randall has facilitated many strategic planning sessions during his time with GCSAA, and brings a wealth of knowledge to chapter boards and functions. These sessions are thought-provoking and can help lay the foundation of a successful chapter for the short- and long-term, and most importantly, improves the value and benefit the chapter brings to its members.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Out on the Road: Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio

Conference and education season has officially been in full swing for a few weeks now. In early December, I attended the Wisconsin GCSA Turf Symposium, the Central Illinois GCSA Annual Meeting and the Ohio Turfgrass Conference. I was a first-time attendee at all three events and each one was well-planned and organized.
  • The WGCSA Turf Symposium is held in Kohler, Wisconsin, each December and is one of the marquee events on the WGCSA calendar. This year, the two-day event featured presentations from industry professionals and university professors on a variety of topics including pesticides, social media, weather damage, technology and sustainability, to name a few. The event is well-attended by members throughout Wisconsin as well as neighboring states, and this is what makes the event such a hit. Attendees know they will have access to some of the best education in the area, but more importantly, they are able to network and have face-to-face conversations with peers and friends. The WGCSA symposium committee did an excellent job planning the event and I thank them for their time and effort.

  • The Central Illinois GCSA chapter held their annual meeting in Bloomington, Illinois, this year. I was honored to be invited to speak at the meeting about some of the work GCSAA has completed in 2015 and share some of the GCSAA initiatives set to go in 2016. The meeting was also very well attended and featured more qualified speakers than myself in the likes of Dr. Nangle of the Chicago District Golf Association and Dr. Lee Miller from the University of Missouri. One of the best take aways from the meeting was the round table discussion the members had. The discussion featured research funding as well as ways to improve the chapter and increase member participation. The round table was an informal atmosphere to share ideas and was a great success. The chapter was able to gather meaningful insight from members and board members, and is another example of the value these meetings bring to chapter participants. 

  •  Although I was only able to attend one of the three days of the Ohio Turfgrass Conference, I was able to meet and network with many of my fellow industry professionals. The education on the day was fantastic, featuring speakers from the USGA, various universities and GCSAA's own Chava McKeel, who gave the members an update on WOTUS and government affairs priorities. 

These events are all great examples of the wonderful education and networking opportunities that are available to all GCSAA members. One of the highlights of the week came while I was talking to a first time attendee at the OTF Conference, he told me how he gained more information just by having conversations with other superintendents during the day than he would have from any other source. It's yet another example of how attending these events can benefit you, your career and your profession.