President-elect Joe Biden has indicated his choices for many of the top-level positions in his incoming administration. Many of these nominees will impact the water, pesticide and labor issues that comprise GCSAA’s Priority Issues Agenda. Not all nominees require confirmation by the United States Senate but those that do may find their hearings delayed: The Senate will be unable to conduct most business until the results of the January 5 runoff races for the two Senate seats in Georgia are known.
Here’s a rundown of who we expect to impact the game of golf over the next four years. First, here are the four appointees who require Senate confirmation:
- Environmental Protection Agency. For the EPA, Biden has nominated Michael Regan, the current Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality in the State of North Carolina. Regan is a former EPA official who worked on air quality issues. He’s also worked on clean energy issues at the Environmental Defense Fund. If confirmed, he would be the first African American to head the EPA. Senate confirmation required. The EPA has a large portfolio that includes clean water issues. When it comes to golf, we expect it to consider amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the successor to WOTUS. GCSAA will advocate strongly for a rule that clearly defines federal jurisdiction over the nation’s waters. It is also possible that pesticide regulation will be impacted by the EPA. Congress, for example, is considering legislation that would replace the science-driven registration process in place under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). We expect the EPA to weigh in on this.
- Department of the Interior. For Interior, Biden has nominated Representative Deb Halland of New Mexico. The Interior Department manages the nation’s natural resources, including our national parks. It also oversees the listing of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. GCSAA supports ongoing efforts to ensure that the decision to list a species under the ESA is based solely on the best available scientific and commercial information and with the consultation of all impacted parties. Golf course superintendents must continue to have access to innovative pest management tools, which meet EPA’s requirements to protect health and the environment.
- Department of Homeland Security. For Homeland Security, Biden has nominated Alejandro Mayorkas, who served in the department under President Obama. Homeland Security is responsible for protecting our nation’s safety. It plays an important role in meeting golf’s labor needs as well. Each year, Homeland Security helps set the number of H-2B temporary workers that are allowed to enter the United States, including those who work at golf courses. GCSAA will continue to lobby this department to ensure there are as many H-2B workers in this country as needed by seasonal businesses to meet their needs.
- Council on Environmental Quality. Biden has nominated Brenda Mallory to head the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). If confirmed, she would be the first African American to head this agency. CEQ is a lower profile agency that nonetheless plays a big role in overseeing our nation’s environmental regulations, including the environmental assessments and impact statements required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for infrastructure projects. We expect CEQ to provide counsel to President-elect Biden on a number of environmental initiatives that could impact golf, including any rewrite of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
Biden has not yet indicated who will lead the Department of Labor. Leading candidates include Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI-9); Seth Harris, a former deputy Labor Secretary in the Obama Administration; and Julie Su, the Labor Secretary in the State of California. Along with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor plays an important role in administering the H-2B program. GCSAA will lobby whoever is picked to lead the department, to make sure golf’s voice is heard.
There are two positions Biden has announced that do not require Senate confirmation but could impact golf. Both deal with climate change, which we expect Biden to focus on during his administration. Biden has named former Secretary of State John Kerry to be a “Climate Envoy”. He has named former EPA head Gina McCarthy to serve as a “Climate Czar”. Kerry is expected to focus on climate change on the international level. McCarthy is expected to focus on the national level, with the authority to embed climate policies in virtually every federal agency.
Why Senate confirmation will be delayed. The Senate is waiting the results of the Georgia runoff elections, set for January 5. Two seats are at stake, currently held by Republicans David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler. If both seats flip to their Democratic challengers, the partisan breakdown of the Senate changes to 50-50. With Vice President Harris as the tie-breaker, this would put Democrats in charge of the Senate next year. But for now, control of the Senate is unclear. So while Senators will be sworn in on January 3, most Senate work will be delayed until the runoff results are final.