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US: New licenses for RV sales halted in Louisiana

by Melinda DeSlatteAssociated Press
December 20th, 2005

Hoping to protect Louisiana businesses and stem an onslaught of out-of-state trailer salesmen setting up shop after the hurricanes, a state panel on Tuesday halted the issuance of new licenses for people to sell motor homes and travel trailers.

The Louisiana Recreational and Used Motor Vehicle Commission stopped the issuance of the licenses until Feb. 28 despite questions from the commission's lawyer about whether the move was legal.

Michael Roberts, chairman of the commission, said the moratorium was prompted by the glut of out-of-state dealers trying to come to Louisiana for a few months to sell travel trailers and RVs directly to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is coordinating temporary housing for the thousands of residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Roberts said the out-of-state sellers "are here to make a buck and leave," harming the sales of Louisiana businessmen.

Jack Torrance, executive director of the vehicle commission, already could withhold licenses for 60 days without the delay issued Tuesday, according to Roberts.

The commission's lawyer, Robert Hallack, questioned whether the moratorium on new license issuances was legal, but the panel easily approved the move which was backed by licensed Louisiana RV dealers without objection.

RV dealers have filed complaints with the state recreational vehicle commission against at least two companies that have received federal contracts to sell travel trailers to FEMA.

One complaint was filed against a company that incorporated nearly a month after Katrina and received a federal contract to sell about $8 million worth of travel trailers without a state license.

Another complaint was filed against a custom motorcycle company in River Ridge owned by the father and an uncle of state Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco that received more than $100 million in federal contracts to provide trailers. The company received its state license to sell the trailers after it was awarded its first post-hurricane contract.

Stephen Miller, with FEMA's Emergency Housing Unit Logistics division, said the federal agency is trying to work with and purchase trailers from Louisiana-based RV dealers while trying to speed the providing of temporary housing for hurricane victims.

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