Every year at this time, Jack Molodanof, a registered lobbyist for the California Autobody Association (CAA) and president of Molodanof Government Relations in Sacramento, CA, begins the process of reviewing hundreds of proposed bills.
He needs to identify the ones that can potentially affect the collision repair industry, either positively or, more importantly, negatively.
One particular bill, introduced by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, immediately caught Molodanof’s attention for all the wrong reasons.
“AB 294 was introduced this year and is sponsored by the insurance companies,” he said. “It’s definitely a big one, for the automotive repair industry, especially for auto body shops.
"It will create a new regulatory board for towing and storage companies under the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA.) Unfortunately, the bill is overly broad and captures auto body shops that are already heavily regulated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR.) In addition, it prohibits auto repair shops from charging reasonable rates for storage.
“The bill weakens consumer protections and hurts small businesses, by stripping the BAR of its expertise and authority to regulate auto repair shops' ancillary storage issues,” he said. "It creates a new Vehicle Towing & Storage Board within DCA to oversee and enforce towing and storage issues in the state.
"This new board is overly broad and would place automotive repair dealers (ARDs), that charge ancillary storage, under separate regulatory jurisdiction."
It's simply unnecessary to include ARDs in the bill because they are already subject to BAR oversight, Molodanof said.
"ARDs are not in the towing and storage business. The auto repair industry is in the business to diagnose, perform maintenance and repair vehicles," he said. "Storage service is ancillary to auto repair shops, but usually only comes into play on total loss vehicles, or when a customer does not pick up and pay for authorized repairs in a reasonable amount of time.
"If an ARD is charging unreasonable storage rates or an issue arises regarding storage, a consumer can file a complaint with BAR to investigate. BAR has authority to take disciplinary action against an automotive repair shop that fails to comply with laws and regulations.
"Creating another unnecessary board to oversee auto repair and related storage issues not only deprives consumers of BAR’s expertise and oversight authority, but...