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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Will the professional deregulation bill return?

What’s all the fuss about?

Floridians logged more than 45,000 complaints to a state consumer hot line during the latest fiscal year, up 20 percent from the year before. That’s according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which manages 1-800-HELP-FLA and recently released a list of the top 10 consumer complaints.

Telemarketers, motor vehicle repair shops and travel agents all cracked the list.

Those professions share an interesting thread: All were slated to be removed from state oversight in earlier versions of the House’s professional deregulation bill, HB 5005, leading Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to balk about the toll it would take on his agency’s consumer hot line as well as lost oversight of auto repair shops and charities.

A whittled-down proposal that removed those professions from being deregulated passed the House but suffered a stunning defeat on the last night of session by senators who felt the bill was being shoved down their throats.

Aside from launching nasty relations between the chambers that night, the defeat sparked questions of whether it would return in next year’s session, and if it would have a Senate companion.

The sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said she stripped travel agents, auto repair shops and telemarketers from the bill after hearing concerns from Putnam and others. Still, Hukill said she has not decided if she will sponsor a reincarnation of the deregulation bill next year.

The agency’s release of complaints -- and a subsequent Putnam tweet warning about unregistered charities -- leads us to think Putnam would not be down with a bill that kicks staffers out of his consumer services division.

Here’s the list:
1. Do Not Call, 12,345
2. Telemarketing, 10,416
3. Credit/Banking, 2,289
4. Communications,  2,267
5. Motor Vehicle Repair, 1,913
6. Travel/Vacation plans, 1,682
7. Real Estate Broker/Salesperson, 1,532
8. Landlord/Tenant, 1,332
9. MV Sales/Accessories, 1,311
10. Medical, 854

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 5:54pm]


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