The Legislative Season continues to move along, with several bills under consideration that are of potential interest to arborists and others involved in tree care. At this point in the session, there is something of winnowing process going on. At the start of the session, a large number of bills are proposed. Many never make it past the placeholder stage. Once the concept of the bill is proposed, it is never sketched out in any detail. Already, this appears to be the fate of several bills, such as HB-5623, a bill that would allow municipalities to regulate spite fences and spite trees and shrubs.
The CTPA Board keeps tracks of bills that it thinks are of concern to the member, especially as regards the arborist license. One such bill has arisen during this session. SB-836 has been proposed by DEEP in order to change the civil fines associated with the arborist license. Essentially, DEEP is seeking to streamline these structure behind these fines, bringing them into accord with other fines, such as those associated with pesticide violations.
Initially, the CTPA board opposed this bill, as it decreased the fines associated with unlicensed tree work and raised those fines associated with misuse of a license. However, the CTPA, led by President Bud Neal and Past President Charlie Iselin, did their homework. Bud contacted DEEP and spoke with the person most directly associated with the enforcement of the pesticide rules and of the arborist license. DEEP explained that the higher fines for enforcement against non-licensed individuals selling tree work actually worked against enforcement, as the size of those fines made it more difficult for DEEP to issue those fines – the legal requirements are more stringent once a fine gets above $1,000. By lowering the fines to $1,000 or less for these violations, DEEP actually has greater ability to enforce the law.
This discussion reassured Bud and Charlie as to DEEP’s intention regarding the arborist law. Both spoke at the public hearing, using their time before the Environment Committee to explain how DEEP and CTPA try to work as part of the same team with regards to license enforcement. Bud, on behalf of the Association, gave the Committee a rundown on the history, size and purpose of CTPA, while Charlie detailed the importance of these statutes to licensed arborists and how important it is for DEEP to have the tools it needs, in order promote quality tree care in the state.
Other bills of interest include HB-5655, which outlines the conditions by which a property owner may be liable for the expense of removing a fallen limb or tree, if that tree or tree part falls onto an adjacent property. A key part of the bill is the requirement that the individual who is concerned about the tree or limb falling must have that tree inspected by a Connecticut licensed arborist before failure, in order to be able to claim clean-up costs. This bill has been up in several previous sessions and even passed two years ago, before falling to the Governor’s veto. People who have been following this bill consider this version to be much improved over previous versions.
Another bill that has drawn the attention of the Tree Wardens Association is SB-507, which would establish procedures making it easier for commercial forest practitioners, certified by the State of Connecticut, to be considered as qualified to be tree wardens. The public hearing is to be held on this bill today (March 6, 2017). Currently, testimony has been running against passage of this bill.
CTPA will continue to keep an eye on legislation as it moves forward. CTPA is greatly assisted in its ability to track these bills through its membership in the CT Environmental Council (CT-EC). In particular, CT-EC tracks bills related to the application of pesticides.
These are not all of the tree related legislation proposed. CTPA members are encouraged to be in touch with their elected representatives and to be aware of the legislation that is being proposed in each session, especially as relates to their profession and their livelihood.