tampabay.com

Crist's towing bill gets new name

By REBECCA CATALANELLO
Published March 29, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Almost every year for 10 years, state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, has failed to achieve state regulation for towing companies.

On Wednesday, he announced a new name for his as-yet-unpassed legislation: The "Glen Rich Act."

Glen Rich, 30, was fatally shot by a towing company owner last year when he got into an argument with the person towing his vehicle from outside a bar in Tampa, deputies say.

Donald Montanez, 44, of PPCI Inc. towing company, faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with the incident.

Though Rich's widow stood with Crist as he announced the bill's new name, it's unclear whether the legislation (SB 612) - proposed in the House by Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, as HB 93 - would have prevented the shooting outside the Sugar Shack club in January 2006.

If passed, the Glen Rich Act would require wrecker companies to pay a $495 annual registration fee to the state. Tow truck drivers would undergo training and continuing education as dictated by a new state wrecker operator advisory council.

Tow company owners convicted of a felony in the past seven years would be banned from conducting business, as would owners convicted in the last seven years of crimes involving repossession, motor vehicle theft, overcharging for repairs and a host of other vehicle-related offenses.

Montanez did not have any felony convictions at the time of the Tampa shooting, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He also had not committed any of the prohibitive crimes detailed in the bill.

Attorney Jay Hebert says Montanez shot Rich in self-defense when he feared Rich would hurt him. And though Hebert was not familiar with Crist's bill he said there is nothing in Montanez' history that would have prevented him from lawfully operating his business.

Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed similar legislation in 2005 on the grounds it placed excessive burdens on the industry, hitting small businesses hardest.

Crist said he was inspired to work on the legislation after his mother's car was towed incorrectly, ruining the vehicle.