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Seven bills succumb to governor's veto pen

They include one requiring tow truck operators to register and another benefiting adult entertainment arcades.

By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published June 4, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - Tow-truck operators, travel clubs and small-stakes gambling arcades lost big Friday when Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed legislation that segments of all three industries wanted.

Bush spiked seven bills, including a measure that would have required tow-truck operators to register with the state, pay $515 annual registration fees and take training courses.

Tow truck operators said the bill would crack down on "gypsy" drivers with old equipment and no insurance, but opponents said it was intended to restrict competition.

Bush said he vetoed it because it "places excessive regulatory and cost burdens on the entire wrecker industry" that would fall hardest on small companies. The Republican governor's opposition was similar to that of AAA Auto Club South, which said it contracts with towing firms for 2.4-million service calls a year for its Florida members.

"In the end, it was real clear that there was no documented evidence as to the need for something like this," said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president of AAA Auto Club South.

The bill (SB 276) was sponsored by Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, promoted by the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida, and supported by all but four members of the Legislature.

Bush also questioned whether 10 full-time employees to regulate thousands of tow-truck firms was sufficient, a position taken by some operators who opposed the bill.

Bush also vetoed a bill (SB 1520) that would have expanded a gambling loophole to allow adult amusement arcades to accept other forms of currency besides coins, the only form of currency allowed under current law.

"This provision would obliterate the bright-line "coin-only' rule that law enforcement officers, state prosecutors and the courts rely on to identify, regulate and shut down arcades operating illegal slot machines," Bush wrote in his veto message. "This is an expansion of gambling and is inconsistent with my long-standing anti-gambling philosophy."

The arcade operators sought the added protection at a time when police in some counties are confiscating the machines, contending they are an illegal form of gambling. The provision was a three-word amendment - "or other currency" - quietly added to a consumer-protection bill at the urging of the arcades' lobbyist, Frank Mirabella, with the support of Senate Majority Leader Alex Villalobos, R-Miami.

Bush's veto was a victory for the state's parimutuel industry, which opposed the loophole.

Another reason for the veto, Bush said, was an excessively broad new loophole it would create in laws governing the timeshare industry by exempting travel clubs from regulations.

"The provisions in this bill create an exemption without limits and diminish consumer protections," Bush wrote.

The governor also vetoed a bill (HB 499) that he said altered the conditions for public access to golf courses seeking special tax status under state law.

Bush also vetoed a measure that would have given new protections to police and correctional officers who are investigated for wrongdoing.

The other vetoed measures included a bill (SB 52) that would have required a minimum of a $1-million insurance policy on commercial trucks modified into dump trucks. A bill governing doctor training that also would have created a defense for physicians in disciplinary proceedings and a measure that would have let pharmacy technicians dispense medication for nonhuman use were also vetoed.

--Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified June 4, 2005, 06:14:28]


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