TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County’s State Rep. Andrew Learned found himself in the hot seat this week after agreeing to add his name as a co-sponsor to a controversial Motor Vehicles Bill.
Learned and the two other legislators who proposed the bills in the House and in the Senate did not return calls from Investigator Shannon Behnken. State Senator Tom Wright, who first proposed the bill, has not responded to requests for comment since early January.
The bill, as proposed, would take away the regulator’s ability to strip a car dealer’s license if they don’t turn over a vehicle title to the car’s new owner within 30 days of its purchase. It would also take away the state’s authority to yank a dealer’s license for failure to provide the title on time.
The bills drew stark criticism from tax collectors, state officials and consumers. Behnken has investigated for months why consumers are complaining about missing or delayed titles from online car dealer Carvana and, most recently, Vroom.
State officials have given Carvana until the end of January to fix title issues or risk losing its license. The state also recently filed a 47-count complaint against Vroom for the routine title delays.
This week, Learned said he only agreed to sponsor the bill if he could amend it. But those changes weren’t made public until this week, after a special Better Call Behnken report about seeking answers from the lawmakers.
“All that language is gone,” Learned said in an interview, adding, “That’s been gone since I agreed to co-sponsor the bill over a week ago.”
Learned says he wants to give car dealers extra time, but only until Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order on COVID-19 expires.
“We extended the 30 days to 45, so we’re simply giving dealers an extra two weeks to make that transaction complete and whole,” he said.
Consumers are reacting to the change, as many still deal with cars they can’t drive because they don’t have titles.
Jill Mederos is one of them.
“It’s more so helping the dealerships, the companies, the big ones that are making money off of this,” Mederos said. “Giving them more time just allows us to be left hanging even longer.