Broward News

At Last, Peace Reigns in Tattooland

The bill that would have overhauled tattoo regulation in Florida is dead. The two factions of state tattooists, who had earlier this month waged an epic, expletive-laden battle in the comments thread of this Juice post, are now on the same team, or soon to be. And together, they will work toward a bill that all tattooists can agree will improve their industry.

Bill Hannong, president of the Florida Professional Tattoo Artists Guild, had been the most frequent target of tirades because his guild participated in crafting the original bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel of Hallandale Beach and introduced in early February. That caught hundreds of Florida tattooists by surprise, and many suspected the worst -- that Hannong and his guild cohorts were rigging the legislation to help themselves, not the industry. Hannong had maintained from the outset that his group was only concerned with making tattooing better in Florida.

On Sunday, Hannong, a Fort Myers tattooist, traveled to Tallahassee, where a leader of the rebellion, Fort Lauderdale tattooist Stevie Moon, was staging the inaugural meeting of what he called the Florida Coalition of Tattooists, whose first act would be to kill the pending bill.

Rather than clash, the two sides compromised. Hannong agreed to join Moon's forces in opposition to the bill, while Moon ditched his coalition and joined Hannong's guild.

"As soon as Stevie and I sat down to discuss this, he figured out, 'You guys were really trying to do something cool,'" says Hannong. "And I said, 'Yeah, it just didn't go the way we wanted.' [The original bill] wasn't designed for our benefit. It was designed to benefit the whole industry."

For Hannong, the only disappointment was that, for all the participation by tattooists in that Juice comments thread, only about two-dozen tattooists made the trip to Tallahassee for the meeting. "There were a lot of voices and opinions thrown out there on the blog," says Hannong. "It's easy to sit at your desktop and throw accusations and not to do more than that. The real commitment is when you physically take part in something."

Fortunately, the attacks did not inflict lasting trauma. "I'm too old to be cyber-bullied," says Hannong.

The guild will have its next meeting in Orlando at the end of April, says Hannong, at which time it will elect a new board of directors. Membership in the guild is $50, and while only members can vote in that election, Hannong says nonmembers are welcome to attend. This has yet to be posted on the guild's website, but future announcements may appear there.

The newly replenished ranks of the guild will be working with a lobbyist and an Atlanta physician on language for a new bill, which will be introduced before the end of the year and, all sides hope, passed into law in the next legislative session. The bill is expected to provide guidelines for licensing tattoo artists and toughen laws against "scratchers" -- tattooists who don't follow existing state standards for safety.

All in all, a happy ending to what looked like a civil war. Now if we can just get state legislators to give this compromise thing a whirl.

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Thomas Francis