Published: July 6, 2004
Antiques dealers and auctioneers are breathing easier now that a proposed bill that would have resulted in them having to fingerprint those that they buy from failed to pass the state’s assembly committee on business and professions.
Defeated on June 22 with only three yea votes from the 13 members, the bill, SB 1893, was referred back to the committee on appropriations. The bill had been passed by the California state senate earlier in June by a 33-to-3 vote. It would have been on its way to the state assembly and then to the governor had it been approved last week.
SB 1893 proposed stringent regulations for antiques dealers and auctioneers, including such drastic measures as taking a fingerprint from everyone that they buy or take consignments from for rdf_Descriptions exceeding $250 in value. Dealers and auction houses would have also been required to report all purchases of $250 or more to police within 24 hours, and hold the merchandise for 30 days prior to selling it. The proposed bill was aimed at curtailing the trafficking of stolen merchandise.
Alan Michaan of Auctions By The Bay in Alameda was clearly ecstatic over the bill’s defeat. He and a number of others from the antiques and coin trade were on hand for the hearings, and testified in opposition to the bill. “I see this as a major victory, but it is also a battle that we will have to continue to wage in coming years,” said Michaan. “We were completely blindsided by this, and we cannot let it happen again.”
“No one from the antiques business knew about [the bill] during the initial phase,” said Norman Haigh, president of the California State Auctioneers Association (CSAA). “We didn’t find out until it had already been passed by the senate.” Banding together, antiques dealers and auctioneers, headed by CSAA, Michaan and the online auctioneer eBay, created a groundswell of opposition that ultimately led to the defeat of the bill.
Michaan handed out flyers and sent emails by the tens-of-thousands pleading for support and stating, “Don’t let our business or hobby be regulated into oblivion.” Michaan’s efforts created an awareness of the bill among local dealers, auctioneers and show promoters, as well as municipalities and police. “I have been in contact with the chief in Alameda and he is pulling his hair out over this,” he said, explaining that the chief could potentially receive thousands of these forms after every antiques show, flea market and auction.
“The sheer logistics of this are impossible,” stated Michaan, “This bill was crafted to aid in the return of stolen materials and to increase revenue; in fact, the bill achieves neither. It is not a rational concept that it will recover stolen property.” Michaan commented that the process would have also cost the state untold amounts of both money and resources. “It creates a huge burden on our police departments that are already overburdened and underfunded,” he said. “They are already having a hard time responding to serious crimes.”
Michaan also queried, “What about eBay? Does this law affect everyone from California that is selling rdf_Descriptions to California residents?”
The proposed bill did not specifically address Internet auctions; however, eBay clearly believed it would be affected. An eBay representative, Michelle Peacock, testified before the committee and stated that “the bill’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would unfairly discriminate against many legitimate sellers in California.”
The online auction giant also commented that the legislation would “needlessly burden the vast majority of resellers and stifle the rapidly growing use of the Internet by ordinary Californians seeking to resell property.”
Support for the bill was presented by Best Collateral, Inc and a couple of police departments in the state. Best Collateral commented that the “bill will facilitate the longstanding legislative goals to prevent the theft of property and evasion of sales tax.” The Santa Maria Police Department stated that the “goal of existing law to curtail the dissemination of stolen property and facilitate the recovery of stolen property can only be enhanced by the establishment of a statewide electronic data reporting system.”
The office of the state’s attorney general did not agree with the police department’s support of the bill. The attorney general’s office opposed the bill, asserting “under the provisions of this bill, secondhand dealers would end up reporting rdf_Descriptions such as straw baskets, books, salt and pepper shakers and wall prints. These rdf_Descriptions would simply clutter up the existing ‘Automated Property System,’ making it more cumbersome for law enforcement to use.”
Other groups opposing the bill included the California Coin and Bullion Merchants Association, Expos Unlimited, iSold It, PayPal and the Video Software Dealers Association.
Further information can be obtained through Michaan at 510-740-0220, ext 103, or by email at CSAA can be reached at 888-541-8084, its website is . A copy of SB1893 may be viewed at .
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