In 1995, the operator of a Pasco County dance studio was sentenced to prison after scamming more than $1 million from lonely, confused elderly customers.
When he got out … he simply went to a new dance studio.
This led to an investigation by the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Some of the cases:
• In 18 days' time, a 74-year-old widow was talked into writing checks totaling $247,295 for dance lessons, competitions and trips.
• A 67-year-old Clearwater woman spent $88,000 over eight months for lesson packages, trips and competitions.
• An 85-year-old widow signed up for $29,000 worth of lessons.
• An 81-year-old spent $271,000 over a few months.
Investigators found 30 customers who had been talked into signing 328 separate, deliberately confusing contracts worth $3.5 million.
A studio operator defended all this by saying customers had voluntarily made "an adult decision."
As for any complaints, he said: "Maybe some of the students went on these trips and didn't get laid."
He got 30 years in prison.
Why am I dredging up this ancient history?
Because dance studios are one of 20 professions about to be deregulated entirely by the state Legislature.
Maybe they should be. Maybe there will always be crooks, and victims to give them their money.
But the effects of House Bill 5005 will be felt by a lot of Floridians in daily life. Among other things, the bill repeals regulation of:
In-state moving companies.
Charities, real or fake.
And a lot more.
I know, I know.
All regulation is bad.
Just want to make sure that we're all on the same page about this. Once this law passes, don't come complaining to me about it.
• • •
Take car mechanics.
Auto repair shops would not have to give customers a written estimate, nor to call for permission to exceed it.
Neither would mechanics be required, even if the customer asks, to show them the parts that were replaced.
In-state moving companies would not be regulated. They would not be registered. They would be able to jack up the price en route and refuse to turn over your furniture.
Our law now says that movers must release a customer's possessions if a law enforcement officer determines (1) the bill was paid or (2) the mover did not give a proper signed estimate.
But that is Big Government regulation. It is to be repealed.
A charity that solicits money in Florida would not be regulated by the state.
State law now makes it illegal for a charity to use "deception, false pretense, misrepresentation or false promise" to get a contribution.
That will be repealed.
Gyms and health studios, which sell contracts to the public — why should they be regulated?
Travel agents. Auctioneers. Telemarketers, too.
• • •
Anybody would be able to call himself or herself a sports agent or a talent agent. If they can get hopeful people to give them money, good.
As for ice or water vending machines — why should they be regulated in any way?
One profession that has gotten a lot of attention is interior design. Interior designers really want to stay regulated.
Other professions already have been spared. One is land surveying. (Apparently, grownups explained to the Legislature that, see, we need licensed surveyors.)
With these exceptions, though, I am all for deregulating everything else. Let's get Big Government out of the way, and let's put Floridians back to work. This is, after all, about "creating jobs."
If some of those new "jobs" in Florida involving bilking widows, running shady auto-repair shops or hijacking people's furniture — who cares?