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Friday, March 31, 2006

Tallahassee and Online Dating Legislation

I've become involved in several different kinds of legislation, online dating being one of them. I was interviewing people for a chapter about online dating for my next book when I came across True.com. They do criminal background checks of everyone who joins. I went back to the other dating web sites I'd been looking at. None did background checks of any kind. So I contacted True.com and got an email back from Terra Gray. I asked her how this worked and she said it cuts down on anyone with felony convictions, making their members safer. Intriguing! True.com also prosecutes anyone who is found to be married after joining their web site. They do NOT tolerate this at all. Terra told me about some legislation they were trying to get passed in several states. It would require all online dating web sites to disclose whether they did criminal background checks or not.

Simple, yes?

You'd think the world was coming down from the whining from the opponents to this. Everything from "they're trying to regulate the Internet," to "True.com is doing this for their own benefit," to worse. So I offered to testify on behalf of the legislation.

As someone who works with online victims and police departments on a daily basis, I've seen cases where online dating situations have gone wrong. A simple "We do criminal background checks" or "We do not do criminal background checks" is simple and only common sense.

What's worse is that Match.com is against this legislation, yet they already disclose on their web site that they do not do criminal background checks. Say what? They are afraid that passing this legislation will regulate the Internet. Hello?

Anyone opposed to this legislation makes me wonder what they are hiding.

I flew to Tallahassee last week to testify in both the House and the Senate. This was the first of several committees the legislation has to go through. I stayed at The Governors Inn, steps from the capitol building where the hearings would be held. I got a Junior Suite, which basically was an oversized room with a sofa. And the scariest old wardrobe I've seen. It made the one on Chronicles of Narnia look cute.

I met Cyn Henderson, the local lobbyist, for a drink at the Governors Club, a private bar. Since I was still in my traveling clothes (jeans, sneakers, comfy shirt), I was the most underdressed (but most comfortable) person there. Cyn is a sweetheart, very pretty, very intelligent and funny. We talked about the hearing the next day, then she had to go off with her son to a sports event.

I ended up getting takeout from Andrews Capital Grill, directly across the street from my hotel. I asked for a glass of wine while I waited. The waitress came back with two glasses - it was happy hour. I told her I couldn't finish both and she sneaked me a "togo" cup to take the wine back to my room.

The next morning I met Cyn and we walked to the capitol and began a long day of walking through the capitol, meeting with senators to make sure they were on board with us. Terra met us and she is a riot! She has Tracey Ullman's eyes and is a true Texan.

When the hearing finally came, I was the only one to get up and testify and I slew them. The bill passed that committee. Senator Lynn tore the opposing side a new butthole, if you get drift. She was amazing when she asked them why they opposed.

We celebrated with drinks at Andrews outside in the beautiful weather. There was a street fair going on, so it was fun watching all the people. Cyn had to take off, so Terra and I headed to a Japanese restaurant. Cyn met us later, then Terra and I went to hotel to have a nightcap at the bar. Good lord, these people can drink.

The next morning we all met up and did the same rounds for the representatives this time. I have never walked so much. There were rumors that one of the reps was trying to get the bill put on hold, trying to rewrite it, and more. A very vocal opponent who plainly did not like the rep who introduced the bill, Rep Kevin Ambler, who I'd met last year.

Time came again for us to testify and again, I was the only one who got up to do so. The rep against the bill asked me questions. I answered and kept it brief. The woman from Match.com and the other opponents got up. All I have to say is next time you guys go up to oppose the legislation:

1) Keep it brief
2) Stick to the facts and make sure they *are* facts
3) Do your research

Needless to say, the bill passed the committee.

We celebrated by going to Clusters & Hops, a wine shop/restaurant. And wonderful! Very eclectic, superb food. Lots of fun. It was all us girls, gabbing, drinking wine with our dinners (I had sliced duck breast with foie gras), and just having fun. One girl I met, Brandy, told us this hilarious story about a cruise she recently took with her hubby. I'll recount it in a later post.

I have not had so much to drink in a long time. I just am not a huge drinker. Cyn drove me back to my hotel, I stumbled in, went up to my room and wouldn't you know it, neither of my keys worked. So I had to negotiate my way downstairs and ask the desk clerk to help me. He said the computers had done something wacky with a bunch of the room keys and had mine fixed in no time.

Got to my room, undressed and collapsed. Thank goodness my flight didn't leave early the next day.

I met Terra at her hotel at 1030 am to get a ride to the airport. We were laughing about the night before. Both of our flights left around the same time, so we grabbed an early lunch, gabbed some more, then said goodbye.

I had a two hour layover in Charlotte, NC again, so I did another chair massage, got two white chocolate-covered strawberries for later and relaxed.

Got home late, talked with Chris, then hit the sack.

I'll write about my lecture in Augusta, Maine tomorrow.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Debbie said...

Hooray, Jayne. And you said it wouldn't be fun! Of course you know this, but, I'll reiterate. The only reason sites like Match.com are against the disclosure is because they don't want to bother with the background checks. Once there are laws requiring disclosure, and the public is aware of such, they will look bad. Without the laws most people wouldn't think of checking before using a site. They assume they all work the same (besides, it must be great with celebrity endorsement). Sounds like you had piles of fun nailing 'em!

3/31/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger JAH said...

Ah, you didn't read thoroughly. The new bill requires online dating web sites to *disclose* whether they do the checks or not. It does NOT require them to do checks. That's why it's ironic that Match.com already does this, but is still against the bill.

3/31/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Debbie said...

Ah, but you didn't read what *I* said! "Once there are laws requiring disclosure" Gee whiz, Jayne. Don't forget it's me LOL. Remember the NJ Bill discussion? Right now it looks nice of them that they tell you that they don't. They won't be special and look concerned about you when everyone tells, too. And darn, then you'll know that there are sites that do the checks and are safer.

3/31/2006 06:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Debbie said...

And, before you say anything, I realize the NJ Bill is not about online dating. Just mentioning that I *do* read carefully LOL. (Particularly legal stuff!)

3/31/2006 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger JAH said...

Mea culpa

4/01/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous debbie said...

Yeah, yeah. Not a problem, lol.

4/01/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Hey there! For some reason your feed isn't updating - it only shows your very first post here, and none since! I wouldn't have known you were updating had I not come specifically to the web site to see.

4/04/2006 03:00:00 AM  
Blogger JAH said...

I have no clue how to fix that.

4/08/2006 09:59:00 AM  

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