Council Requests Governor to Veto SB 1520

Advisory Council On Condominiums

By Jan Bergemann

Published May 26, 2005


Here is another example of using the power of the Advisory Council on Condominiums for private gain.


There was no mention of SB 1520 being discussed during the Council meeting on March 31, 2005. The agenda was quiet in this matter.


But that didn't stop the Council from deciding to write a letter to Governor Jeb Bush, asking him to veto SB 1520, a bill that deals with defining travel clubs. See more explanation in article below.


Council member Mike Andrew is working for the Marriott Vacation Club. Even if he officially abstained from voting on the motion, Andrew was the member who started the discussion and asked for the Council to support the agenda of his employer.


No public input, no discussion with the public -- the public didn't even know the fate of SB 1520 would be discussed, since there was no mention on the agenda.


But here we are! The council writes an official letter to the Governor asking him to veto the bill.


And it was even suggested that the Ombudsman should write a similar letter!


I hope he does not follow this suggestion. In my opinion both the Council and the Ombudsman Office were created to help the public, owners and board members.


They were definitely not created -- and paid for with unit owners’ money -- to help in the in-fight of the industry.  And again, the Council strayed again far away from their agenda and the legislative intent.


This is not a matter of the bill being good or bad -- or if it deserves to be vetoed!


It's a matter of the ruling Powers That Be on the Council do whatever they want and make up their own rules as they go along.


Their meetings sometimes remind me on the meetings of a bad condo board.

Wasn't the problem of bad condo boards part of the reason why this council was created?

Newcomer worries kings of time share

Article Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

By Susan Strother Clarke

Published May 25, 2005

Most businesses chafe at regulation.

But big names among Florida's time-share companies are doing just the opposite -- getting worked up about a measure that could actually loosen rules in their industry.

David Siegel e-mailed Jeb Bush. Jim Lewis, chief of Disney's Vacation Club, penned a letter to the Guv. And I'm told Bill Marriott himself contacted Bush, all urging him to veto SB 1520.

What's so bad about this measure?

It's not the overall bill, which includes some consumer-protection issues and was approved by lawmakers this year.

But it's an amendment that has time-share folks concerned. It defines travel clubs -- which are similar to time shares -- and says the clubs are regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Most players in the time-share industry fall under the stricter rules of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. These rules are loaded with buyer protections, like the right to back out of a deal.

The amendment was put on the bill by lobbyists for Steve Case, the former AOL exec. Case and his partners -- surprise! -- own a travel club known as Executive Resorts.

The difference between time shares and travel clubs? Travel-club customers never actually own real estate. That's the key reason clubs don't think they should be subject to the more stringent rules of the time-share business.

Some of this is just an industry squabble. Travel clubs are relatively new players in the time-share world. The industry doesn't quite know what to make of the competition.

In the case of Executive Resorts, customers buy in to stay at a fancy house somewhere for a couple of weeks a year. Typically, the customer is far more high end than someone who buys a time share.

But time-share officials say they are concerned because the definition of travel clubs is too broad. It would have the unintended effect, they say, of deregulating other parts of the time-share industry.

The American Resort Development Association, the time-share industry's trade group, claims that would open the door to the type of vendor that tainted the business years ago -- essentially selling swampland to unsuspecting vacationers.

Obviously, that would damage Florida's $5 billion-a-year time-share business.

"Unscrupulous developers will now be able to take advantage of unprotected consumers," Siegel wrote in his e-mail, "creating a black eye for the entire tourism industry in our state."

Rest assured that the travel-club folks are responding to the organized onslaught from traditional time sharers. They're meeting later this week with the governor's staff to explain their position.

Tough to say what Bush will do, but I'm told he's likely to take action on the bill very soon.

BOTTOM LINE. The Metro Orlando Urban League has opened an office in the Disney/SBA National Entrepreneur Center. Daniel Johnson is the business-development manager. . . . SeaWorld Orlando opens its Blue Horizons show Thursday. You'll see the usual tourism types there, but SeaWorld considers it more of an arty show -- so its guest list reflects that, including Margot Knight from United Arts and Mary Ann Dean from the Shakespeare Festival. . . . The American Society for Training & Development meets in Orlando next month, and one speaker is Rudy Giuliani. In an ad, Giuliani is referred to as an "international icon" as well as a former NYC mayor. Bet that looks good on the old business card.