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Rep. Shusterman Wants to Phase Out Gas-Powered Lawnmowers in PA

State Rep. Melissa Shusterman wants the state to switch from gasoline-powered lawnmowers and other gardening equipment for the good of the planet.

Shusterman (D-Paoli) posted this sponsoring memo on the House website: “Gas-powered lawn and garden tools represent about 85 percent of what is known as small off-road engine (SORE) equipment in the United States. Such equipment is often manufactured without the pollution controls placed on gas-powered vehicles and thus burns a dirtier fuel mix. Moreover, operating a gas-powered commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much pollution as driving a passenger car about 300 miles.

“Recognizing such a substantial contribution to pollution, more than 100 local governments in the United States have enacted at least partial restrictions on using gas-powered lawn equipment. Similar proposals have been made in Pennsylvania’s neighboring states of New Jersey, New York, and Maryland. During a time when outdoor temperatures are reaching life-threatening levels, we must act with urgency to limit sources of significant pollution, such as gas-powered equipment.

“In an effort to join these states at the forefront of climate stewardship, I am introducing a resolution to establish a Zero Emissions Lawn Care Task Force. The task force would develop a plan to phase out gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in Pennsylvania. In doing so, it would consider issues of affordability and accessibility for disadvantaged communities in its recommendations and establish a plan for an incentive program to encourage the switch to battery-powered alternatives,” she said.

Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association President Dave Taylor was shocked that a Pennsylvania state representative would propose this.

The idea “looks like it was plucked straight from Santa Monica, Calif.,” he said. “And if she thinks Pennsylvania is like California, she’ll find it’s very much otherwise.”

Taylor said we should allow the market to decide whether electric devices will be used rather than having  government regulation mandate them.

“This mindset is part of command and control statism,” said Taylor. “It’s extremely arrogant for a politician to decide what kind of equipment people can or cannot use.”

He said many small businesses are involved in mowing lawns and landscaping, and forcing them to buy new equipment could put them out of business.

“And what about privately owned equipment?” he asked. Would the government “send the state police to people’s homes to check on their lawnmowers?”

“It’s extremely short-sighted and presumptuous,” said Taylor. Lithium-ion batteries to run electric lawnmowers are made in China. Here, there is “zero capacity” to manufacture them. Would Shusterman “approve more lithium mining permits or permits for processing facilities?”

“Greens don’t want mining, manufacturing, and processing,” he said. “They don’t even want the transmission lines that would be needed” to charge all these new electric devices.

“I doubt if Rep. Shusterman spoke to any small business owners,” he said.

Nicholas Froio, a co-owner of Froio’s Lawn& Landscape, a landscaping company in Chester County, said they’ve looked at electric mowers and other equipment for the last five years.

“We’re not against it,” said Froio. “We just ordered six new lawnmowers at $11,000 a piece, and the electric ones are $25,000 to $30,000. They’re 2.5 to 3 times the cost. So, not only is cost an issue but then, let’s talk about run time. You’re not going to be able to get a full day of run time out of an electric lawnmower. So now you have to set up your trailer with some sort of solar charging and things like that to be able to charge on the go.”

“So, you’re just seeing the snowball effect, and that’s kind of the rundown for the mowers. But they have their advantages. The blade time speed is going to be tremendously better because it’s all individual. Each blade has its own motor. So, everything has its advantages. And technically, electricity is cheaper than gas.”

As for handheld tools, “We’re still contemplating having an entire crew on electric. So that’s not out of the question,” said Froio. “Yes, they’re slightly more expensive, but nothing too crazy.”

“But ultimately, it comes down to two things. One, you need a lot of batteries, the capacity, and how long they last. And two, when it comes to a leaf blower, electric can’t produce nearly as much CFMs (cubic feet per minute) as a gas blower.”

Froio does not like the idea of the government mandating a switch.

“If the government wants to give me $20,000 to switch over a crew, I’ll take it,” said Froio. “I’ll switch it over, and you’re not going to hear me complain. But it’s like, do you want to incentivize it? I think it’s part of the whole picture that’s not fully painted.”

“We’re not against it but…I don’t want to be forced to do it,” he added.

Jennifer Brown, a spokeswoman for Shusterman, said “global warming,” is the reason Shusterman is sponsoring a resolution for the task force.

“There were several 60-degree days in February and we haven’t had any snow,” said Brown. “It’s pretty clear our planet is warming. And gas-powered law equipment is one of the biggest reasons.” She noted an article from PennEnvironment shows southeastern Pennsylvania as a heavy emitter of carbon dioxide.

Members of the lawncare industry will be invited to participate, along with scientists and other stakeholders, she said.  The thought is to encourage change with rebates, tax credits and discounts on new electric equipment. They will “collaborate and determine what makes the most sense for business owners,” Brown said.

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RICHEY NICHOLAS: An Update to James Carville’s 1992 Campaign Advice

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That was James Carville’s advice to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Thirty years later, the economy is again a top concern of voters.   However, this time the advice from the small-business community is, “It’s the economy and democracy, stupid.”

Small businesses are raising their voices about protecting democracy. They know that a strong democracy is crucial for a vibrant entrepreneurial economy. The two go hand in hand. Polls show that businesses, small and not so small, are concerned about the state of our nation’s economy and they want Congress to act.

Small businesses thrive when entrepreneurs know that their investment of time and money can lead to successful, profitable businesses for themselves, their families and their communities.

This confidence drops when our democracy is threatened to be replaced by an autocracy, one-party rule, in which government leaders are no longer chosen in free and fair elections. Under autocratic governments in which leaders are not concerned about the opinions of voters, only the politically well-connected are favored by government policies, consumers reduce spending, not all entrepreneurs have access to the marketplace, and successful businesses are in jeopardy of being shut down or taken over by big campaign supporters of those in office. Free market capitalism dies.

After the 2020 election through Jan. 6, 2021, we now know that there was a concerted effort to deny the will of the voters. The congressional hearings have exposed the anti-democracy supporters among us. Had they been successful, America would have been on the path to an autocracy that small-business owners fear.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of senators understood that Congress needed to protect democracy by reforming the ambiguous 1887 law regarding the federal role in certifying the president and vice president based on state elections. These nine Republicans and seven Democrats have co-sponsored a bill to update and improve the 135-year-old law.

The bill, “Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act,” would provide clear instructions for how states should submit their electors to Congress and how Congress should process and certify the election results every four years.

This bill is not perfect. More needs to be done to ensure that bad state actors do not replace the will of the voters with their own favored candidates. However, the bill is a vast improvement over the current law.

Business for Democracy, a campaign of the American Sustainable Business Network, has launched seven state collaboratives, with more on the way, to use the trusted voice of small businesses to elevate the issue of protecting democracy so that it will be of concern to voters this November.

These state Business for Democracy collaboratives are asking their senators to support the Electoral Count Reform Act. In addition, they are also calling for their states’ congressional candidates to commit to voting next year for two other pieces of legislation, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

These voting reform measures make up the three-legged stool needed to hold up our democracy.

The Electoral Count Reform Act can and should pass this year so that we never have another overt or covert effort to deny the will of the voters as to who will be their president and vice president.

Members of Congress who fail to support this act and congressional candidates who refuse to support the other two bills to protect democracy need to be reminded by voters, “It’s the economy and democracy, stupid.” Then vote accordingly.

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Comcast Expands Access to its RISE Small Business Grant Program

Comcast is reaching out a helping hand to minority-owned small businesses. The technology and communications giant plan to award an additional $1 million in grants and support to minority-owned small businesses as a part of its Comcast RISE initiative. The recent announcement comes two years after Comcast started the program.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, governments shut down many small businesses with dire results. Some went under while others struggled to survive.

“As we continue to rebuild from the effects of the pandemic, small businesses still need our support,” said Dennis Matthew,  Comcast regional senior vice president.

The National Institute of Health reported that in the first five months of the pandemic, small businesses declined by 22 percent, with 3.3 million total small businesses affected. According to the NIH, African-American-owned small businesses declined by 41 percent, Latino-owned businesses declined by 32  percent, and Asian-owned firms by 26 percent.  Female-owned companies are also suffering. The report states that female-owned business activity declined by 25 percent during the same period.

In 2020, Comcast established the Comcast RISE initiative, which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment.” The program focuses on businesses owned by people of color, including Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans.

Comcast originally started the initiative so that financial and technological resources were more accessible to small businesses that needed help in the wake of the pandemic. The program aims to assist underrepresented business owners in achieving long-term sustainability. The RISE program helps them access various financial resources, business support services, and tools necessary to succeed and provides continued support to recipients.

Building on the program’s success, Comcast announced its plans last November to expand its eligibility requirements to all female-owned businesses. Now female business owners will qualify to receive grants and assistance through the Comcast RISE program. Comcast believes that this change in the eligibility requirements will address social inequities and help level the playing field for businesswomen trying to obtain access to resources. The expansion will help female business owners become more successful.

Through its partnership with Ureeka, a website company, the Comcast RISE program has various options for helping grant recipients. Ureeka is a third-party organization that, according to Jen Bilotta, the regional vice president of communications for Comcast in Philadelphia, helps all RISE recipients. Service packages include educational opportunities and mentoring, marketing and advertising through various commercial media channels, technology tools such as digital hardware and business software, and monthly newsletters providing small business owners with information to help businesses succeed.

“In 2021, I was sent a link to apply to the Comcast RISE grant,” said Christina Faith, owner of Creative Thought Media in Philadelphia.  “As a Black entrepreneur, grants often require you to jump through hoops to apply. It was refreshing to receive the funding and resources to support our business. I love that Comcast RISE continued to support us after the resources and grants were deployed. They continually check in to see how we are doing and what other support is needed.”

Since it began, Comcast RISE has awarded grants to 9,500 businesses nationwide, 700 of which were Philadelphia-based small businesses. In 2021, one hundred qualifying Delaware Valley businesses received $1 million in grants. The Comcast RISE initiative has awarded over $16 million in grants and $75 million in marketing and technology support to small businesses nationwide. Comcast expects to help 13,000 more small businesses by the end of 2022.

“Comcast is extremely proud of the initiative’s progress and the businesses it has helped,” Bilotta added.

The program is currently accepting applications for service package grants. The deadline is October 14, 2022, if you are a minority small business owner interested in applying for a grant through the Comcast RISE initiative.


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