The California Pool & Spa Association™ (CPSA) – formerly California Pool & Spa Industry Education Council (SPEC) ‐ has been the de facto government relations and public policy arm of the California swimming pool and spa industry for over 40 years. CPSA is the only organization registered to lobby on behalf of the pool and spa industry in this state, and the only organization that has consistently maintained a presence in the California Capitol with a proactive government relations program designed to monitor and engage on issues affecting the swimming pool and spa industry at all levels of government.
What does this mean and why is it so important? In the realm of public policy, every business or industry in this state is one bad headline, one unfortunate incident, one complaint to a legislator or regulator away from a new law or regulation that could cost the business or industry time, money, or complication in doing business. The swimming pool and spa industry experienced this very situation in 2014 relative to the California drought when we realized that the only way to keep the industry from being shut down during California’s historic drought, was to institute a statewide lobbying and public education program relative to the real facts about water use by swimming pools and spas. The pool construction and remodeling industry would have suffered tremendously in California and, along with it, most of the sales of pools and spas and their related equipment.
The California drought demonstrated the scope and breadth required of a proactive government affairs program in order to adequately defend the interests of the swimming pool and spa industry at all levels of state and local government which can impose new laws, regulations, and ordinances on the industry. The scope of work and the challenge presented by governmental entities in California are as follows:
- There are 58 counties in California
- The state has 478 cities
- There are over 700 water districts
- At least 10 state agencies deal with water and safety issues
- The California Legislature introduces legislation annually
Each of these governmental entities can impose new requirements on the industry, and thus their activities must be monitored. Moreover, it is not enough to merely monitor these state and local agencies, a proactive governmental relations program must have the budget, resources, and personnel in place to respond to proposed laws and regulations, sometimes within hours of notice. During the drought, CPSA appeared before city councils in almost 100 California cities to fight off proposed water use restrictions on filling or refilling swimming pools and spas.
To execute government affairs in a manner that can and will defend the industry against proposed adverse government actions, it involves showing up every day and being able to immediately respond to proposed governmental actions at any level of state and local government. Perhaps the best example of this challenge is to understand how the California State Legislature operates. California has one of the only full‐time legislatures in the country; 120 legislators spend up to nine months each year in Sacramento enacting new laws relative to the issues of the day. Approximately 2,500 bills are introduced each year and roughly 1,000 of those legislative proposals will be enacted into law.
CPSA monitors and reviews every one of these bills for anything that could adversely affect the swimming pool and spa business in the State of California or the industry nationwide. As it is common knowledge that whatever happens in California on the legislative or regulatory front is often exported to other states, it is extremely important for the industry to engage to fix or defeat proposals which are averse to the swimming pool and spa business before they spread. What makes this task more difficult is that 60% of the bills introduced are legislative intent bills or placeholders. What this means is that the bills make non‐substantive changes to existing law or declare the intent of the Legislature to effectuate some change in existing law. These bills will not be amended to reflect the true intent of the bill until sometime later in March or early April, generally a week to 10 days out from the bill’s first policy committee hearing.
Most bills are not introduced until the third week of February, and those bills must be in print for at least 30 days prior to being heard by a legislative policy committee. As such, this only leaves about six weeks for all 2,500 bills to have a policy committee hearing in the house of introduction. These timeframes require lobbying and public interest groups to be able to respond quickly to bills that might adversely affect their members. Certainly, there are other times in the legislative process when an organization can do this, but it’s extremely advantageous to get involved early before a bad bill develops momentum.
Adding to the difficulty of monitoring and reacting to the Legislature is the sheer number of policy committees that can potentially affect the swimming pool and spa business in California. Most of the standing committees of both houses of the California Legislature have jurisdiction over issues that can affect the industry including Consumer Affairs, Labor & Employment, Insurance, Business & Professions, Water, Energy & Utilities, Natural Resources, Public Safety, Judiciary, and Transportation.
The California Regulatory landscape is also a challenge. CPSA monitors the activities of the Contractors State License Board, California Building Standards Commission, Department of Pesticide Regulation, California Air Recourses Board, California Water Commission, Department of Natural Resources, California Energy Commission, California State Water Control Board, California Public Utilities Commission, Department of Employment Development, and Department of Labor.
Each of these agencies can and do promulgate regulations that pose issues and can have an economic effect on the swimming pool and spa industry. Obviously, the state agencies dealing with water issues have been significant to CPSA over the last few years, and water issues in California are simply not going away. The Department of Water Resources and California State Legislature enacted the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and Governor Brown’s water plan which establishes both indoor and outdoor water quota for residential structures. The final outdoor landscape quota is still a work in progress and will not be finalized until 2022. CPSA has attended numerous meetings on this topic and retains outside expert water consultants to assist the association in trying to make certain that, whatever the final outdoor water quotas are, there is enough water to support swimming pools and spas. CPSA has also California Pool & Spa Association™ 915 L Street, Suite 1100 Sacramento, CA 95814 weighed in on building code regulation relative to commercial pool construction and maintenance. These are ongoing activities as these codes are constantly being updated.
Over the last two years, CPSA has led the effort to respond to concerns from the Department of Pesticide Regulation relative to accidental exposure to chlorine gas. The department, at one point, was advocating for every pool maintenance professional to be required to be licensed by DPR. CPSA was successful in convincing the department’s leadership that an educational campaign and video was the first step in addressing this issue, especially considering most of the accidents involved facilities that utilized a handyman to maintain their pool. Just recently, the California Air Recourses Board reached out to CPSA to assist them in outreach efforts to swimming pool contractors on new regulations on construction equipment and trucks to reduce carbon output. As a result, the Air Resources Board agreed to conduct a webinar for CPSA members. For years, the California Energy Commission has been promulgating new energy efficiency regulations for swimming pool, spa, and portable hot tub equipment and lighting. The association also works closely with the Contractors State License Board on regulatory issues and working to address the underground economy that unfairly competes against CPSA members.
CPSA operates on a relatively small budget given what is at risk in California for the swimming pool and spa industry. In 2014, CPSA commissioned an economic impact study to understand the impact the pool and spa industry has on the California economy. That study found that the swimming pool and spa industry has an annual economic impact on California in excess of $5 billion dollars, not including the remodel business. CPSA operates on a budget of less than $500,000 annually. In just the last five years alone, CPSA has had numerous successes which more than justify its operating budget by fighting off challenges that would cost the industry more.
In summary, CPSA has a rich history of providing legislative and regulatory representation for the swimming pool and spa industry in the largest market in the nation, even when we did not have the financial resources to fund our activities. The potential challenges for the industry from a government affairs standpoint are daunting, and they present substantial risk to the future of the pool and spa industry in CA and across the nation. These challenges require proactive government relations, including a constant presence, timely response, developing relationships with governmental entities, and an informed and committed advocacy program to be successful.