Three Years of Persistence Leads to Connecticut Law Extending Steering Ban
June 11, 2013

by Jenna Reed,

After a three-year battle, state lobbyist Jim Amann and Andre Santamaria of Auto Glass of New England have seen their efforts pay off in a new Connecticut law that extends a ban on steering by auto physical damage appraisers or third-party administrators, including auto glass repair and replacement companies.

Each year these men witnessed the bill move a bit further along in the legislative process until recently being signed off on by the governor.

House Bill (HB) 5072 "requires initial communications between a glass claims representative or a third-party claims administrator of an insurance company doing business in Connecticut and the company's insured about automotive glass works or products to inform the insured about his or her right to choose where to have the work done."

Additionally, "The bill bars insurance companies or their representatives from steering an insured to a licensed glass shop owned by the company, claims administrator or their parent company, unless they provide the insured with the name of at least one other shop in the area where the glass work is to be performed," according to a summary of the bill from the Connecticut government website.

Amann and Santamaria played an integral role in getting the legislation through state congress.

"I was approached with this three years ago," says Amann of International Government Strategies in Milford, Conn. "I knew right away that this was something I wanted to get involved in.

"We feel the bill puts a magnifying glass on Safelite Solutions and shows that competition is good for small retailers. We feel small retailers need to have an opportunity to compete and we know their quality of work is outstanding," the former speaker of the Connecticut House adds.

Amann says the trick to winning state congressional approval for such a bill is not giving up. The bill was approved at the committee level the first year; however, it died on the house floor. In the second year, the bill successfully passed the house only to stall out in the state senate. However, in the third year, with state senate majority leader Martin Looney's backing as co-signor of the bill, the legislation finally gained approval.

"He had an independent glass retailer in his area and so he helped support the bill and served as co-signor," Amann explains. "For the third year, we knew the battle would be a bit easier; however, we were still concerned about the governor's office because the state insurance commissioner was not in favor."

Santamaria, whose auto glass company is based in Stafford, Conn., says it was a group effort to get the bill turned into law. He teamed up with the Connecticut Glass Dealers Association.

"It was all about educating the legislators and letting people know how hard it is to be a small business today," he says. "It took a lot of hard work and a lot of explaining. Auto glass isn't a big claim area. Consumers don't know they have a choice. Our key was being persistent and telling the truth."

Meanwhile, Amann adds, "It's actually a war and you have to win small battles first and talk to individual legislators. To gain support for a similar bill, small business owners need to reach out to their personal state senator or state representative to ask for help. Most are there to represent their constituents and this is step one. Explain to them briefly what the problem is and help them understand.

"Anything worth fighting for is never easy," he continues. "We did it and got the bill approved so there is no reason why this can't be done state by state. The reason I got so enthusiastic about this bill is because it addresses an unfair business practice. We went in telling the truth. A consumer who needs auto glass work should have a choice as to where to go. They should not be steered."

Santamaria says the feedback he's heard from other auto glass company owners is that they are excited over the bill's passage into law.

This story is an original story by AGRR™ magazine/™. Subscribe to AGRR™ Magazine.
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