WASHINGTON—Like any good lobbying effort, it's a game that usually requires a lot of push and pull action—and the Rubber Manufacturers Association's (RMA) efforts on behalf of state bills regulating the sale of used tires have not been an exception.
The RMA has made the drafting of model bills—like the used tire legislation—and their promotion in state legislatures a major, if not the major, factor in its government affairs activities.
The trade group's activities in state legislatures have encompassed model bills for scrap tire management and tire repair, as well as fighting measures such as bills concerning tire age. The RMA and its members have worked in tandem with other associations, particularly the Tire Industry Association (TIA), on these and other issues.
In 2013, the RMA is concentrating its efforts on its model bill establishing regulations preventing the sale of unsafe used tires. In Florida, the state senate is considering regulating used tires under the auspices of a transportation bill, SB-1132, that includes language from a separate bill that the RMA had sponsored..
In Texas, bills that combine the RMA's used tire language with provisions on the handling and transportation of used and scrap tires are before the legislature. Senate Bill 459 passed the Texas Senate 29-1 on April 15; House Bill 3783 is currently before the Texas House Regulatory Affairs Committee.
So how did the RMA persuade state legislators to introduce its used tire bill?
Generally speaking, when the RMA wants to have legislation introduced in a state, it works through a local lobbyist, according to Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs. Mr. Zielinski testified in Austin, Texas, March 27 on behalf of SB 459. His colleague, Tracey Norberg, RMA senior vice president and corporate counsel, testified there April 16 on behalf of HB 3783.
The RMA tends to use lobbyists recommended by member companies, according to Mr. Zielinski. “It helps if we get a referral from someone we trust,” he said.
Mr. Zielinski called the search for sympathetic state legislators “an unscientific process.” Usually, the association contacts at least three state senators and/or delegates to find ones who are really responsive to the issues at hand.
For Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, R-29th District (El Paso), dealing with used and scrap tires is one of a number of issues he addresses as a legislator.
“This has been an ongoing problem in District 29, particularly in the desert areas adjacent to fast-growing neighborhoods,” Mr. Rodriguez told Tire Business. “The RMA also has worked on these issues, and my office came into contact with them in the course of due diligence.”
Before SB 459, Mr. Rodriguez said, he worked with the RMA during his first session as a state senator, in 2011, on another tire-related bill.
In his 17 years as county attorney for El Paso County, Mr. Rodriguez said, he prosecuted many cases involving illegal dumping of scrap tires.
“The tire issue is important both on its face, because of the environmental, health and safety issues involved, and in the impact its details have on the general public and other stakeholders.”
Texas Rep. Jason Isaac, R-45th District, is the sponsor of HB 3783. He said he was alerted to the bill by a former colleague in the Texas House who helped facilitate a meeting between him and the RMA.
Not just tires, but transportation safety in general, is a subject close to Mr. Isaac. Before he entered the state legislature, he said, he was a consultant to the trucking industry.
“I worked for Eaton Corp. for seven years, selling safety equipment to the trucking industry,” he said.
Though Mr. Isaac now lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, a small town not far from Austin, he used to live in Dallas, he said. He was impressed by the scrap tire cleanup efforts by Dallas city officials, and by the educational efforts they undertook to inform residents of mosquito breeding and other health and environmental problems created by scrap tires.
“I don't want people selling unsafe tires, or tires piled up on the side of the road,” he said. “There are five scrap tire piles in Texas with more than 1 million tires each.”
Mr. Isaac also has a personal interest in tire safety: “I was involved in an accident with a tire casing left on the road,” he said.
The legislator said he is working on the language of the used tire bill to make it more acceptable to opponents, such as the Texas Tire Dealers Association and the Texas Automotive Recyclers Association. “I'm trying to get everybody involved who has concerns with the bill,” he said.
Florida Sen. Greg Evers, R-2nd District, and Florida Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-42nd District, are sponsors of the Florida used tire legislation. Neither Sen. Evers nor Rep. LaRosa had replied to inquiries for interviews as of Tire Business' presstime.
On April 23, according to Mr. Zielinski, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee amended SB 1132, a state transportation bill, with the language from SB 1588, a bill to prohibit the sale of unsafe used tires. The committee accepted the amendment by voice vote and passed the underlying bill—SB 1132—unanimously. Basically, this means that RMA-supported unsafe used tire legislation is now contained within SB 1132, he said.
SB 1132 is considered to be “must-pass” legislation during this session of the Florida Legislature, which adjourns on May 3, Mr. Zielinski said. The bill is expected to be scheduled for Senate floor consideration in the coming days.
Should it pass the Senate, SB 1132 will be sent to the House, he said, explaining that if the House makes changes, it will have to come back to the Senate before adjournment on May 3.
To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com; 202-662-7211.