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Sen. Sobel Caught in Tattoo Snafu

A state bill that aims to make the tattoo industry safer is certain to have the opposite effect, according to the local tattoo artists organizing quickly to oppose it. Senate Bill 1130, sponsored by Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel, the Hallandale Beach Democrat, would make it tougher for tattoo artists to get a state license. So tough that they may take their craft underground or else close up shop.

"If this bill passes, within six months one-third of the tattoo studios in Florida will be wiped out," predicts Stevie Moon, who operates a tattoo studio at Federal Highway and NE 26th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Moon is trying to round up his friends in the industry, starting with this online petition.

Currently, tattoo parlors must be supervised by a physician, who takes responsibility for the shop's safety standards. The artists apply for occupational license either through their municipality or their county. Under the standards of the new bill, aspiring tattoo artists would need written recommendations from at least five professional Florida tattoo artists with at least five years' experience. "You're opening the door for bribery, for extortion," says Moon.

What's more, the regulations come at a time when the state is more strapped for cash than ever. To enforce the new rules, it will mean adding work to the heavy caseloads of state health inspectors -- possibly hiring new ones. And that doesn't count all the tax revenue that the state stands to lose from tattoo parlors that are currently licensed and paying their taxes but which must close or go underground if the bill passes.

The bill might also mark the end of tattoo conventions -- when tattooists fly in to Florida from around the world, giving tattoo collectors a chance to get ink from an artist they have admired from a distance. "The work he would have to do to get licensed to work at that convention, it's not worth it," says Moon.

Sobel's office did not immediately return calls for comment. This post will be updated when that call comes.

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Thomas Francis

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