by Chasidy Rae Sisk
We get it…you’re busy running a business and making sure that your customers’ vehicles are repaired safely and properly to pre-accident condition, so you just don’t have the time to get involved with politics and the government.
You’ve read AASP/MA Executive Director Lucky Papageorg’s messages and past features in New England Automotive Report about the Alliance’s attempts to reform the Auto Damage Appraiser Licensing Board (ADALB) through House Bill 262 (formerly HD 2860) and efforts to establish a minimum labor reimbursement rate via House Bill 1035 (formerly HD1950), which now have new bill numbers since they’ve been assigned to committees, but perhaps you’re still having a hard time understanding how these matters impact your business directly. After all, you’ve got plenty to worry about, so why not let the legislators handle the legislation while you focus on fixing the cars?
Because they don’t know what they don’t know! Legislators don’t understand what it takes to fix today’s complex vehicles, but repairers certainly do, and that’s why it’s so important for the Massachusetts auto body community to come together to take a stand to support their customers and thereby the collision repair industry as a whole. The current pieces of legislation each include the same language proposed in the prior session.
In the last legislative session, the association garnered impressive bipartisan support for both bills in the House and Senate – and their current iterations are anticipated to follow suit – but that would not have been (and will not be) possible without collision repair professionals coming forward to contact their legislators and provide testimony when the time came. The time is coming soon, so for now, it’s imperative that every shop learn how these bills can impact their day-to-day operations…
“An Act relative to the licensure of appraisers” (HB 262) seeks to move the ADALB from the Division of Insurance to the Division of Occupational Licensure, require term limits for members and add two consumer representatives. Sponsored by Representative Tackey Chan (D-Norfolk) and Senator Paul R. Feeney (D-Bristol), this bill has already garnered support from over 40 state representatives (as of early March) who recognize the conflict of interest inherent in allowing insurers to govern insurance companies’ behaviors, and it has been referred to the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. (Download the full text of HB 262 at bit.ly/NEARhd2860.)
As noted on page 12, HD 262 attracted attention at the most recent ADALB meeting where Board member Bill Johnson (Pleasant Street Auto; South Hadley/Belchertown) advocated for the relocation by recalling his time serving on the Real Estate Appraisers Licensing Board.
“Things ran fairly smoothly over there. They have their own investigators and metrics of integrity where violators were punished. There was definitely more support than we seem to get here.”
Attorney Michael Powers noted that two pieces of proposed legislation have been introduced which, “if enacted by the legislature and signed into law by the governor, would mean we will no longer be meeting here. One creates a brand new Board, and the other bill abolishes the ADALB completely.”
While the current ADALB is far from perfect, things could definitely change for the worse if House Bill 1005 were to be signed into law! The legislation, sponsored by Representative Michael Finn (D-Hampden) and referred to the Joint Committee on Financial Services, seeks to rewrite Chapter 26, section 8G of the Massachusetts General Laws to eliminate the ADALB completely and return responsibility for appraiser licensure back to the Insurance Commissioner (read the full text at
“One can argue whether the Board should be housed under the DOI or under the Division of Occupational Licensure, but I think we can all agree that eliminating the Board entirely is not good; it’s just bad legislation, period,” Johnson observed.
When the ADALB representatives were asked to share their opinions, Board member Samanatha Tracy (Arbella Insurance) prevaricated, noting that it was her first time reading it and that “I’m not sure, as a Board member, that my personal opinion is relevant.”
Rick Starbard (Rick’s Auto Collision; Revere) took a different stance: “If this thing gets to see the light of day in a hearing and our opinions are solicited, I have no problem saying I’m opposed to it, and I would have no problem going to the statehouse to speak in opposition if they hold hearings on it.”
Board member Peter Smith (MAPFRE) expressed concern about the Board’s authority when it comes to supporting or opposing legislation, but he also indicated his affinity for the paragraph in HB 1005 “relative to the disagreement on the cost of repair; that language is very similar to neighboring New England states.”
The language in question reads as follows:
“Under Massachusetts law, you are always entitled to use the repair shop or facility of your choice. Unfortunately, we have been unable to agree on price with the facility you have chosen. In this situation, our payment for repair cost may be limited to the price available from a recognized and conveniently located repair shop or facility registered by the Division of Standards, that is willing and able to repair the damaged motor vehicle within a reasonable time. You may be responsible for the difference between our payment and the price charged to you by the facility you have chosen. Upon your request, we will furnish the name of a repair shop reasonably convenient to you that is able to repair your vehicle for the price in your appraisal.”
“I disagree,” Starbard immediately dissented, calling the verbiage in question “the most dangerous part. It basically allows for the lowest common denominator of the collision industry to set the rate and pay out on a job…It’s pretty much allowing anybody with a hammer and a spray gun to be the deciding factor over the charges of a professional, certified, trained or equipped facility. I think the current policy is fairly clear that when both appraisers cannot come together and reach an agreement that you invoke the Appraisal Clause and seek arbitration, but this [proposed legislation] is absolutely dangerous and unsafe. This is something that impacts all of us, and we need to keep an eye on it. And those who are opposed should make sure they voice that opposition.”
Still not convinced that you have any reason to be concerned about the ADALB?
Well, AASP/MA’s other proposed legislation, “An Act to establish minimum reimbursement rate to insurance claimants” (House Bill 1035), will ABSOLUTELY have an impact on every collision repair shop (and the owner’s bank account) if passed! The current average of $40 hourly rate that insurers reimburse claimants at obviously falls short of covering all the costs that go into fixing today’s vehicles, which grow more technically advanced every year (and sometimes more often, it seems)! Once again sponsored by Representative James K. Hawkins (D-Bristol) and with over 30 co-sponsors as of early March, the goal of this important legislation is to increase the existing rate AND require annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. It has been referred to the Joint Committee on Financial Services. (Download the full text of HB 1035 at bit.ly/NEARhd1950.)
“We received strong support in the last session, and we’re looking to grow that support this year,” stressed Papageorg. “As soon as our bills get assigned to committee, we’ll have the chance to give testimony, and that’s when the real work starts. We’re going to need every shop in the Commonwealth to take just a few minutes to help explain how these initiatives benefit the consumers who are their constituents. We refuse to be pacified by insignificant increases that create the potential for unsafe repairs. Massachusetts drivers deserve better, and we’re going to continue fighting until our legislators do the right thing and pass legislation to protect our roadways…and we’re going to need the entire industry to come together to help us make that push and make progress. We CAN get this legislation passed this session, but we need YOUR help to do it.”
“We are excited to see the number of legislators who have already co-sponsored our bills in the current session,” added AASP/MA Lobbyist Guy Glodis. “We are building upon the momentum and the great bipartisan support we received in the last session. We look forward to working with the legislature to bring both of these consumer protection bills to fruition in this current session. The hard work and continued support of the AASP-MA membership will be key to our success.”
Be sure to email email@example.com to sign up for notifications from AASP/MA to make sure you don’t miss the call to arms when it goes out. The association can’t effect the change the industry needs without your help – but collision repairers come together, nothing can stop their momentum and passion!
Want more? Check out the April 2023 issue of New England Automotive Report!