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N.J. Ponders Landscape Contractor Licenses

Tom Castronovo is the publisher of New Jersey's Gardener News as well as the author of legislation that would require landscape contractors to be licensed in the state.

To weed out undocumented and uninsured landscapers, a New Jersey man says contractors would benefit from an official state license for the profession.

Tom Castronovo spent 20 years as a landscape contractor before founding the state's Gardener News publication and is writing draft legislation with help from state Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari's office.

"Very few" states mandate licenses for landscape contractors, so the New Jersey move will be somewhat unusual if it becomes law, said Tom Delaney of the Professional Landcare Network, or PLANET.

Castronovo said he founded his newspaper and web site and is pushing the legislation to cement landscapers' status as professionals.

"I've always been tired of being the butt of jokes compared to licensed professionals," Castronovo told "People say, 'You're the guy who mows the lawn!' I'm trying to spread the news that a landscape contractor is a trained and educated professional."

A license law would make it easy for consumers to see who is following the rules regarding insurance and labor laws, Castronovo said. Like contractors across the country, New Jersey landscapers compete against unscrupulous operators who don't pay taxes or worker's compensation insurance and underbid honest firms.

The New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association agrees. On Nov. 16, director Carl R. Nordstrom sent Sen. Scutari a letter expressing support for the plan. If passed, the law would "protect the interest of the public by preventing unqualified individuals and businesses from engaging in landscape activities."

Some talk radio hosts and others, however, have railed against the plan as another layer of bureaucracy that could require more permits and fees. Castronovo is scrambling to tell landscapers that the benefits will far outweigh a few minor inconveniences.

As of late November, the proposed legislation was seeking a sponsor. Once entered at the committee level, passage could take a year or more.

Sources: (New Jersey) Courier News, N.J. Nursery & Landscape Association,

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June 17, 2019, 8:45 am PDT

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