Its not about saftey! Its a jobs program for people in the pest-control industry. They deserve to be over paid, and the government is doing their best to help them out!

On life, on liberty and license to kill . . . . . . weeds, that is

Mar. 4, 2006 12:00 AM

The Arizona Legislature, we're told, is about to unleash a public menace upon us. A pair of killers by the name of Larry Park and Gary Rissmiller. Two bold outlaws who pose a threat to all mankind, or at least to mankind's bushes.

Fortunately, the licensed professionals in Arizona's pest-control industry are riding to our rescue, standing tall to protect our life, our liberty, our lantana. They're putting on a full-court press at the Legislature, imploring our leaders to hold the line on these lawless sorts who run willy-nilly through our neighborhoods, wielding their weapon of choice.

To wit: Roundup.

Senate Bill 1221 would put this dastardly instrument of destruction into the hands of such as Park and Rissmiller. Sen. Barbara Leff of Paradise Valley proposed the bill. She has this idea that landscapers ought to be able to kill a few weeds without risking the wrath of the state of Arizona. Can you imagine?

The instigators of all this trouble are Rissmiller and Park. Rissmiller owns a small landscaping company in Tucson. Park is groundskeeper for a retirement community in Marana. Between them, the two have more than four decades of experience trimming bushes, mowing grass and, yes, dispatching weeds. Which is how they came to be outlaws.

In 2004, both men were nabbed by state investigators, cited and fined for using Surflan and Roundup without the proper array of state licenses issued by the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission.

You may remember that intrepid agency. A few years ago, it moved in on a 17-year-old after he launched a little business putting wire mesh over vents to keep roof rats out of his neighbors' houses. A state investigator shut him down, informing the kid that he needed a license to put wire mesh over vents, as such activity requires the keen eye and craftsmanship of the highly skilled pest-control professional. But the bureaucrats backed off in the face of widespread public hoo-has, deciding they had more serious threats to tackle. Like weeds.

It used to be that gardeners like Park and Rissmiller could spray weeds with any over-the-counter weed killer that a 12-year-old can buy at Home Depot. But in 2003, the pest-control industry got the Legislature to change the law. Now, it takes three pest-control licenses to spray weeds on land you don't own and occupy. One of those licenses requires 3,000 hours of fieldwork performed under the supervision of someone who has the license.

In other words, if you want to kill someone else's weeds, even your own elderly mother's weeds, you have to work for a pest-control company.

Park and Rissmiller have sued the state, hoping to overturn the law. Leff would like to dump it, too, freeing landscaping crews to once again rid their clients of crabgrass.

"If my gardener told me I have to call in a specialist to spritz a small amount of weeds, I would laugh and say, who made that law?" Leff said. "Well, we did."

Her bill has cleared the Senate and this week the House Commerce Committee approved it.

The pest-control folks, however, are on it like a termite on tree rot. Of course, they aren't out to corner the market on weeds. They're just trying to protect your bushes.

"Roundup does its job of killing plants very well and if it's misused for any reason, it will devastate a yard," warned Bob Hartley, vice president of Truly Nolen Pest Control, who came all the way from Tucson this week to testify against Leff's bill.

Don't you just appreciate the fact that he cares?

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