Tuesday, 01 May 2012 16:40

Collision Repair Industry vs. Sacramento at the Annual ASCCA/CAA Legislation Day

by Ed Attanasio

Imagine the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” but with the title: “Body Shop Owners Go to Sacramento.”

ASCCA/CAA’s Joint Legislative Day on April 18 at the State Capitol did not have the same cast as the 1939 classic film, but the storyline seems familiar: The leading mechanical and collision repairers in the state convene to take on the powers-that-be and provide feedback about proposed legislation potentially impacting their businesses. “This is the one opportunity every year when we can meet with our political representatives en masse and get our message out there,” ASCCA President Tracy Renee said.

“We can influence these bills before they become laws and provide valuable feedback for our key decision makers. Most importantly, we can provide them with a look into how we run our businesses and all of the factors that can affect us and our livelihoods.”

The hottest potato on the table at this year’s Legislative Day for the collision industry was Senate Bill 1460, known as the Automotive Repair Replacement Parts Bill, introduced by Senator Leland Yee.

On April 16, the California Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee held a hearing to consider the bill, and at that time several amendments were made to it. In essence, SB1460 would create a new legal presumption that all certified crash parts will be deemed sufficient to return a vehicle to its pre-loss condition. The CAA opposes the bill, because it asks more questions than provides answers, according to Jack Molodanof, who represents both the ASCCA and CAA as its legal advocate.

“This is the big one right now for body shops, because it will impact the automotive crash parts industry in a significant way,” Molodanof said. “It eliminates current law and shifts all of the warranty responsibility of aftermarket crash parts to the body shops, third party vendors and suppliers—and that’s why we oppose it.”

Legislative Day speakers included John Wallauch, the new Chief of the Bureau of Automotive Repair (see related story this issue); Assistant BAR Chief Doug Ballati and BAR Deputy Chief Pat Dorais, all of which discussed upcoming changes in the state’s Smog Check program. State politicians who spoke to the ASCCA/ CAA assemblage included Senator Juan Vargas, 40th Senate District and Chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee; Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian, Vice Chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee and a member of the Higher Education Committee; and Assembly Member Curt Hagman, the Assistant Republican Floor Leader and Vice Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee.

During the entire day, ASCCA/CAA members visited their senators and assembly members to share their views and concerns about the bills most affecting their respective industries. But before members were to meet with their political representatives, they were briefed by Molodanof about the proper protocol to be used while encountering politicians or their representatives.

“The number one thing to remember is don’t tell your senator, for instance, that you’re a taxpayer,” he said. “They’ve heard it so many times it may just annoy them. Also, speak clearly and don’t chit-chat. Get through your presentation succinctly and be prepared.” Other dos and don’ts about how to lobby in California were explained in a booklet provided by Molodanof. Some of these include things such as don’t complain; mislead anyone or most importantly—never threaten or antagonize a legislator of their staff!

With scheduled appointments throughout the Capitol’s offices all day long, ASCCA/CAA members assembled into small groups to cover as much territory as possible. One group of CAA members, led by Dave Mello, met with Senator Leland Yee to discuss SB1460. Although Yee seemed open to the dialogue, one of his assistants was less than receptive to the CAA members’ suggested changes to the bill, according to Mello.

“We received some pushback—more than I’ve ever encountered in 20 years doing this,” Mello said. “But this is an important bill. We obviously oppose it for a wide range of reasons and the California Department of Insurance (CDI) also opposes it because they said that SB1460 obfuscates a rulemaking process already underway on this matter at CDI to update and improve existing law and, at its worst, appears to reverse a long-standing law that has served to protect consumers from defective or inferior aftermarket parts for almost 20 years.’”

The CAA recently made a statement outlining their opposition to the bill. “The CAA supports improving the quality, safety and fit of non-OEM crash parts for the benefit of consumers and body repair shops,” CAA Executive Director David McClune wrote in a letter to Senator Yee. “Our members use non-OEM parts regularly in the repair of vehicles. The quality of non-OEM crash parts has improved over the last 10 or 15 years, but is still inconsistent. Sometimes non-OEM parts fit and perform and sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately, SB1460 takes the wrong approach to addressing issues surrounding non-OEM crash parts. This bill eliminates current law (CCR section 2695.8 (g)), creates new crash part certification standards and requirements, but fails to designate a consumer protection agency to regulate, enforce and oversee this new program. Also, it shifts all insurer warranty responsibility of non-OEM crash parts to repair shops and third party suppliers. And most importantly, the bill creates a ‘new legal presumption’ that all certified crash parts are presumed sufficient to return the vehicle to its pre-loss condition, even though the non-OEM certified crash parts may not fit properly or is defective.”

Other bills on CAA’s radar are SB1115 (Employment Working Hours: Dutton), a bill that would permit an individual nonexempt employee to request an employee-selected flexible work schedule providing for workdays up to 10 hours per day within a 40-hour workweek. The organization supports this bill, according to Jack Molodanof. “It failed once in the Assembly but now it’s back,” he said. “It’s designed for smaller companies, because right now a business has to have a human relations person essentially to make it possible. We support it, because we believe that smaller businesses should be able to shift their workers’ work schedules without the process being prohibitive.”

Another bill impacting the collision industry is SB1323 (Career Technical Education: Wyland). This bill lays out a roadmap for what the state must do to reinvigorate career education programs in California. The bill reconstitutes the CTE Advisory Committee in each school district to include representation of technical education industry sectors including transportation, with a focus on the automotive industry. The CAA support SB1323, but is afraid that it might encounter problems primarily due to budget cuts throughout the state’s middle schools and high schools.

AB 2505 (Motor Vehicle Replacement Parts: Ma) is also a concern of the CAA for many reasons, mainly because it has the potential to create additional liabilities and burdens for auto body repair shops that install certified crash parts on vehicles and later learn that the certified crash part was “decertified’ by the certifying entity.

“The main questions with this bill are— is the shop responsible for contacting the consumer even if the car has been sold to a third party?” Molodanof explained. “And who is financially responsible for repairing and/or replacing the decertified crash part?”


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