Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Article provided by SCGA

When introduced by Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) February 16, AB 3192 contained a provision that would have banned the use of all nonorganic pesticides and fertilizers on golf resorts in California’s Coastal Zone. The bill defined “golf resorts” as golf courses attached by ownership/management to resorts with at least 300 rooms. At minimum, Pebble Beach, Half Moon Bay, Terrenea, Pelican Hill, Aviara, Monarch Beach, and La Costa would have come under the prohibition. Torrey Pines could have come under it as well, since the two adjoining on-site hotels may have sufficient direct business connection to trigger the necessary nexus.

The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) did not follow suit with the hospitality sector and California Chamber of Commerce in opposing the entirety of the bill, much of which deals with labor and other issues not of direct concern to a golf centric advocacy alliance, but did file an “oppose unless amended” letter with the Assembly Natural Resources Committee – unless amended to remove the blanket ban on the use of all nonorganic pesticides and fertilizers in favor of language consistent with these facilities’ ability to continue offering high quality golf experiences, including Pebble Beach’s ability to host five US Opens in the next 16 years and the AT & T PGA Tour stop on an annual basis.

The bill fell one vote short of the number required to pass out the Natural Resources Committee when it was heard April 8; however, the author was granted reconsideration, giving him the ability to bring it back before the Committee in the time frame necessary to move out of that Committee and on to its second committee of reference (Assembly Judiciary) before the Assembly’s April 26 deadline for bills to pass out of their committee and on to Appropriations.

In that interim Mr. Muratsuchi amended the provision that animated the golf community’s opposition as follows:

30750.3. The use of any nonorganic pesticide or fertilizing material at, or on any part of, any major coastal resort is authorized on areas of a course only when applied in a manner consistent with established integrated pest management principles and where no alternative fit for intended use and proven effectiveness is available. Where nonorganic pesticide or fertilizing material is used, the major coastal resort shall use the least toxic alternative possible in the smallest quantity possible.

As confirmed by the Directors of Agronomy and Superintendents at a number of affected “golf resorts,” this language met the standard the Alliance sought in terms of allowing the affected facilities to continue to offer high quality golf experiences, while at the same time substituting organic equivalents where applicable, minimizing the use of non-organics, and following “well established IPM (integrated pest management) principles.” Those USGA Championships and annual PGA Tour stops would be safe.

Other amendments now part of AB 3192 include a redefinition of what constitutes a “golf resort” that reduces the number of such “resorts” affected, including Pebble Beach, and a clarification of the protocols for selecting the “independent qualified consultants” that are to perform the periodic audits that remain central to the bill’s prescriptions.

With that, the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), which had filed a separate “oppose unless amended” letter, withdrew their opposition. Whether that proves enough to secure one of the three (3) previous “no vote” Democratic Members when the bill goes up for reconsideration is anybody’s guess. The bill has plenty of opponents, but if and when it is reconsidered, it will be reconsidered without the provision that would have caused great harm to some of the state’s venerable golf properties. Just as importantly, should the bill fail in 2024 but come back in a future session, something that is quite routine in Sacramento, it is highly likely to come back sans this objectionable provision.

If one of your conclusions from all this is that the statewide golf community’s stock is on a consistent upward trajectory in Sacramento, you’re on the right track. Whether AB 5, AB 2257, AB 1572, AB 672, AB 1910, and now AB 3192, golf has been faring rather well in recent years. Some might suggest that we have found our way to a formula that can be scaled up to a much more robust advocacy presence in the future. Include us as part of the “some.”