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January 2020

Farewell, 2019 — Hello, 2020

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By Ronnie Miles
Director of Advocacy
NGCOA

Happy New Year! Before we begin to look ahead, let’s take a brief look back at 2019. 

While the number of federal legislative bills impacting the golf industry was minimal during the 116th session, the administration made good on its promise to reverse two of the Obama administration policies. Rescinding the Overtime Rule and the WOTUS Rule were two critical policy actions that were welcomed by the golf industry.

The new overtime rule updates the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative or professional employees from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, and allows employers to count a portion of certain bonuses (and commissions) towards meeting the salary level. Effective Jan.1, 2020, the new minimum annual salary for exempt employees increased from $23,660 to $35,568.

One of the most controversial policy actions taken by this administration was to rescind and replace the 2015 Water of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. Members of the golf industry, through the WAG coalition, submitted our comments supporting the administration’s proposed replacement rule:

“The golf industry appreciates the efforts of the EPA and Corps to create a definition of WOTUS that is not all-encompassing of water features and better defines which water features are subject to federal jurisdiction. This new rule will allow land managers and owners, like those in golf, the opportunity to do the right thing while achieving their goals. This newly proposed rule is a great step in the right direction that will help many entities in the U.S.”

While numerous organizations have filed lawsuits challenging the new rule, we anticipate a final release in February.

That Washington has been relatively quiet does not mean our industry has not experienced political battles. As we have stated numerous times, some of the legislation with the most impact on our business does not have to come out of Washington, D.C.

The golf industry has always faced challenges from states and local taxing authorities attempting to create policies that unfairly tax golf and club properties. Cases in Maryland and New York were two most noted. Through the effort of industry members coalescing in their respective states, both were successful in preventing the passage of proposed taxing policy directed at the golf and club industry. But we know the sponsors of these targeted taxation policies will try again in 2020.

In California, they passed “AB-5 Worker status: employees and independent contractors.”  As written and signed into law, this bill severely limits golf courses’ use of independent contractors and negatively impacts golf instruction professionals the flexibility they desire. A golf coalition, California Alliance for Golf (CAG), was formed and engaged with California legislators with a goal of making modifications to the law’s language allowing continued use of independent contractors throughout the California golf industry.

We continue our support of the CAG and remain hopeful these changes will be realized in early 2020.

These are just some examples of the legislative and regulatory activity across the country that negatively impacts our industry. As an advocate for golf course owners and operators, NGCOA encourages readers to continue to follow these and other external influencers to your business’s success or failure.

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