Florida’s 6th Annual Legislative Conference in March a Huge Success

March 25, 2005 - The Florida Rental Dealers Association’s 6th Annual Legislative Conference March 22-23 was a smashing success. Larry Sutton said "it was the most fun I have had since we have been doing this. Getting an amendment added, and seeing it pass committee within the hours was incredible!"

Twelve representatives from Buddy's Home Furnishings, RAC, Rentway, Rent King, Rent N Roll and Z Best Rentals came together as one unified body with one common goal and a well organized plan of attack. The FRDA team was a relatively new one with this being the first legislative conference for nine of the attendees. Everyone was eager and ready to make their assault onto the capitol.

Jim Tomaszewski of Buddy’s Home Furnishings, a first time attendee, said "I was so excited to knock on a legislator’s door, meet them and be able to speak about our concerns."

After being welcomed by FRDA President Terry Beville, FRDA lobbyist Juhon Mixon took over and laid out the plan of attack and had attendees thinking they were back in school with an excellent Lobbying 101 session.

The main topics of conversation were FRDA’s proposed Senate Bill 1050, deleting section 7 of Florida Statute (FS) 812.155, and how to develop its House companion bill because of limitations on the number of bills a house member can sponsor. Because of the simplicity of our bill, we were in need of having the necessary companion bill on the house side be in the form of an amendment attached to another House bill on the same statute as the one FRDA was trying to amend.

Lobbyist Mixon already had three possible bills to do this on and he had attendees scheduled to go to the committee member’s office to introduce what FRDA wanted and ask for their vote to allow the association to attach its wording onto their bill. Section 7 excludes only the RTO transaction from using 812.155 for criminal prosecution in the event merchandise was obtained through trickery or false representation, or with the intent to defraud the RTO dealer. An amendment passed in 2001 to include RTO became confusing for several state attorneys. Everyone the FRDA members met with was in agreement - the language should be stricken; however, with no House companion bill, the statute cannot be changed.

Shahid Duranni of RentWay said that "from the industry's perspective, our concerted effort and joining hands in a show of solidarity, resolve and common interest was clearly demonstrated and observed in the halls of the State Capitol. The professional entrepreneurship and corporate representation for our industry in the State was well projected by our group. On a personal level, it was refreshing to meet and share ideas with a talented group of businessmen and a woman from the industry."

"As a first time attendee, being able to visit key legislators with a veteran FRDA member taught me how to best introduce and explain our agenda," said Sharon Beville Tomaszewski of Rent King. "Being an active part of changing the law to the benefit of our industry was an experience I will never forget, and one I look forward to being a part of again."

After lunch together with some of their bill sponsors and co-sponsors, the attendees left for the capitol. Within an hour, it was learned that a Senate bill, which already had a House companion bill, was being heard in an hour. Senator Victor Crist, the sponsor of S1050, sits on that committee. Everyone went into the committee meeting and one thing led to another—sponsors from both sides were meeting on the committee floor explaining why Sen. Crist added his bill to S1068 as an amendment, and he met with and got a commitment from the sponsor of the companion House bill that a matching amendment could be added to her bill as soon as next week.

All of this happened in a matter of minutes and right in front of the FRDA attendees! As Dave Pollock of Rent-A-Center said "It is incredible how the system works!" Jan Arnett of Z Best Rentals said it was "most productive and magical to actually see our efforts make it to an actual committee meeting in one afternoon - it was fast paced and truly incredible. I can see where our six years of this effort have made us known to our elected officials, and helped in making this year’s effort a huge success for our cause."

Larry Sutton reminded us all that evening during dinner that "The one thing that I came away with was, in seeing how this could get done so quickly, it is easy to see how bad stuff could happen just as quickly if we were not as involved as we are!"

Tony Craig of Rentway’s corporate office said "This was my first legislative conference, and I was pleased at how graciously we were welcomed at every door and given an opportunity to discuss our issues. It was a great reminder that our government is for the people, by the people and of the people."

FRDA President-Elect Chris Kale of Rent King hopes that the momentum and excitement generated at this year’s conference carries over into the rest of the year and in all efforts to advance and improve the interests of RTO in the state of Florida and nationwide.