The Dealer Fee, Bestiality, and Tallahassee Politics
My frustration and disappointment in the combination of resistance and indifference to my efforts to get a bill through the Florida legislature making the Dealer Feel illegal is assuaged somewhat by an article I read in last Friday’s PB Post, “Bestiality bill finds slim support.”. You can read this article by copying and pasting this link into your Web browser, Dealer Fee and Bestiality Similarities. The absurdity of Florida’s legislature’s resistance to passing a law making it a felony to have sex with animals gives me solace about my difficulty with making the dealer fee illegal. Most states already have a law against having sex with animals [Mississippi, Florida, and a few others don’t] and 13 states already have a law prohibiting or capping the dealer fee. It just takes some states longer to “see the light” than others.
I wrote my first column about my frustration with Florida politics for the February 1st Hometown News. I expressed my frustration with not being able converse with Senator Jeff Atwater about why the dealer fee should be made illegal. If you missed that column, Politics, the Dealer Fee and You, you can read it now by clicking on www.EarlStewartOnCars.com.
That issue of the Hometown News was delivered on Friday, February 1, and Senator Jeff Atwater called the following morning on my cell phone! We met in person shortly afterwards for almost two hours in my office. He also appeared on my Saturday morning one-hour talk show [Seaview AM 960 9-10 AM] one week after that. You can listen to the dialog between the Senator and me by clicking on www.SeaviewAM960.com, then “Earl Stewart”, and finally the date of the show, February 9. Senator Jeff Atwater was very supportive during the approximately 25 minutes we discussed the problems with the Dealer Fee.
After appearing on my radio show, Senator Atwater advised me that I should meet with Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. This committee was reviewing the Senate Investigative Report on the Dealer Fee that was commissioned by Senator Ken Pruitt. I met with Senator Diaz de la Portilla at a Sheraton Hotel in Dania and flew to Tallahassee the following Tuesday and testified before his committee. I was given plenty of time to tell Chairman Diaz de la Portilla and the other members of his committee why the Dealer Fee should be made illegal in Florida. I answered all their questions and passed out copies of my talk as well as examples of illegal and unethical auto ads in the Palm Beach Post. You can read my remarks by clicking on www.EarlStewart.com and then Results Of Florida Senate Dealer Fee Investigation. You can also see a video of this event depicted in the WPTV, Channel 5 Contact 5 report by clicking on Contact 5 Investigation: Dealer Fees.
This brings us up to the present situation which can best be described as “political premeditated gridlock”. Let me explain. When a politician doesn’t want a bill to become law, he doesn’t overtly oppose it. He covertly opposes it by utilizing his superior knowledge of the political system. His tools are many. Not returning phone calls or emails is a great and common tool. Everybody knows how busy politicians are how can we possible blame them for not answering emails or returning phone calls? Another tool is to let our ignorance of the system work against us until we derail our own cause. For example, I just learned that there is no way a bill introduced by the Senate can become law unless a House bill is simultaneously created. Now everybody knows that…Senator Jeff Atwater knows that, Senator Ken Pruitt knows that, and Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla knows that. I majored in Physics in college and didn’t take any courses in Political Science because, back then [1959-1964], Political Science was considered a “crib course”. I thought that the Senate formulated a bill which was then passed along to the House for consideration and modification. Finally, it was sent to the Governor for signing or a veto. I was wrong.
I have numerous emails and phone calls in to Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla but no responses so far. When we met he told me that he personally supported my views on the Dealer Fee. I want to know why he didn’t ask a House of Representatives colleague to sponsor a House version of his committee’s bill. Or at least suggest that I try to do the same. I spoke with Ann in Senator Ken Pruitt’s office. She told me that she would gather as much information as possible on the status getting a House sponsor. Her boss, Ken Pruitt is the current President of the Senate [Jeff Atwater will be the next President]. This is the most powerful position in Tallahassee, arguably more so than the Governor. Even though Ken Pruitt technically can’t interfere with the Commerce Committee or the House sponsorship of a Dealer Fee bill, commons sense tells me there are “ways” he could grease the wheels. One thing I’ve learned is that the Senate and House “staffs” often exercise influence that would not be considered appropriate for the politician himself. This allows the Senator or Representative to maintain “deniability”.
To find a House sponsor, I’ve spoke to, my district Representative, Carl Domino. I must say that of all politicians I’ve called, Carl returned my call faster than anyone. In fact, he called me from his home. Unfortunately Carl told me he cannot sponsor this bill. To be honest, I didn’t really expect him to. The Florida Automobile Dealers Association, FADA, lobbying organization is a strong supporter of Carl’s and, if he supported the abolition of the Dealer Fee it would be political suicide. Senator Domino can’t take chances offending big campaign contributors because he is in a very close race for reelection. Carl Domino told me that each House member can sponsor only 6 bills and that his deadline for sponsoring bills ended in February. So, for whatever reason, I have to find myself another House sponsor. I am working on this as we speak, but the chances of getting anything done in this legislative session are slim.
The good news is that, if we don’t get anything done this year, I’ve very confident we will in 2009. The grassroots support from car buyers is growing like a Tsunami. The media is picking up on it more and more every day. National media has expressed interest as well as newspaper editorial staffs. We got our political baptism of fire in 2008 and we are forged for victory in 2009.
I don’t want to come across like a cynic when I speak of the Florida legislature, the FADA, and the different Senators and Representatives I’ve been dealing with. That’s the system and they are a part of the system. I’ll close with an email I recently sent to a friend in response to an email he sent me expressing frustration with the political process:
This kind of thing only reinforces my belief that the USA is a miracle. There was something supernatural or Godly about the formation of our country, the Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution.
Somehow, in spite of the majority of the voters being uninformed and/or ignorant and most of the politicians being more concerned about pandering to them for their reelection than doing what’s right, we have the greatest country on Earth.