Tattoo Take 2! Eleanor Sobel Takes Another Shot at Bill Regulating Tattoo Industry

Six months after Florida tattooists organized, hired a lobbyist, and gunned down her bill regulating the industry, Sen. Eleanor Sobel will introduce a new bill -- this time with those same adversaries as allies.

We told you last week how Fort Lauderdale tattooist Stevie Moon took a lead role in the defeat of that bill from the last legislative session and how he's been invited to help craft the bill slated for this one.

This afternoon, we reached Sobel by phone, and she described how she was astonished when she visited the comments field of this Juice post.

"I read the things being said about me and about the bill, and I said 'Woah! I thought I was working with the tattooists,'" recalls Sobel. "Then I read in the New Times that (tattooists) are not united."

Prior to that, Sobel had been collaborating exclusively with a group that had a grand, authoritative title, the Professional Tattoo Artists Guild of Florida. But in fact that guild was quite small, as we pointed out in this post. So small that it didn't have a feel for how other tattooists in Florida would react to the legislation the guild -- with outrage, it turned out.

Led by Moon, tattooists were furious about how the bill seemed preoccupied less with safety than with punishment and exclusion.

Sobel admits she was a tad naive. She had never visited a tattoo studio till she visited Moon's Fort Lauderdale shop in October. "His place was immaculate," she says. "He told me exactly what he did and what he loved about this business."

Originally, Sobel became interested in the tattoo industry as an outgrowth of her public health agenda. Because tattooists were not subject to more rigorous health standards, Florida blood banks had to turn away donors who had visited a tattoo parlor in the previous year.

"My interest is in public safety," says Sobel. "Protect consumers and the tattoo industry." She has the backing of the Florida Department of Health, which will enforce the new regulations, should her bill pass. It will also call for the creation of a board where tattooists can govern themselves. To pay for the cost of processing new licenses there will be application fees.

Sobel is guardedly optimistic. "Now that we have the support of the tattoo industry -- I think -- we'll be able to get it passed."

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