It’s Moving Day on Capitol Hill: AMSA to Meet with Congress

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Let’s be honest… in recent months, several people have moved – or been removed – from Capitol Hill. But this September a whole pack of people will be moving in a much more traditional way.

On September 5-7 at the Washington Court Hotel, the American Moving & Storage Association members from all over the country will travel to our nation’s capital to meet with congressional leaders to discuss the policy and legislation that impact our $85 billion industry. AMSA will also be conducting committee meetings, offering advocacy and communications training sessions, and hosting networking events for both industry colleagues and elected officials and their staff. In short, this is a rare chance to get up close and personal with the people who shape the laws of the land – and our own industry.

And guess what? You could be there too.

For more information, check out AMSA’s event announcement. If you are interested in attending, there is a registration link right there on the page. (Note: This is an AMSA members-only event.)

Even if you can’t go, you don’t have to miss out! AMSA will be posting a summary of events once the conference has concluded. (Don’t worry we’ll be giving you a heads up when it’s out.)

The Stuff That’s Illegal to Bring Into Texas

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Relocating to Texas, like relocating anywhere, comes with the responsibility of knowing the laws of the land. Every state differs, and some states are stricter than others. But when it comes to what you can and cannot transport across state lines – and what you can or can’t possess once you’re there – we are sure there is no state quite like Texas.

Here are all the things that are illegal to bring into Texas, broken down by type. Welcome to the wild, mild west.

Fruits and Vegetables

While Texas may have a reputation for oil wells and football teams, the state also boasts a humongous $100 billion agriculture industry. It is no surprise then that they have more than a few rules regarding what fruits and vegetables can’t be brought over state lines.

The good news is the Texas Department of Agriculture spells out all the rules right here in this document. The bad news is this document is 21 pages long and uses a lot of big words. If you’re the type to snack on exotic fruit with hard-to-pronounce names, you may want to read carefully over the TDA’s rules. For the rest of us, here are the basics:

Of particular interest is the citrus fruit family. As the Southwest Farm Press states, “With very few exceptions, no citrus plants, or even pieces of citrus plants are allowed into the state from anywhere.” The National Plant Board gets a bit more technical, explaining (on page seven) that, “any living or non-living rootstock, leaf, root, stem, limb, twig, fruit, seed, seedling or other part of any plant in the botanical family Rutaceae, subfamily Aurantioideae.” As citrus is a huge part of the Texas economy, even one bad plant could potentially ruin entire crops.

In addition to citrus fruits, Texas has plenty of prohibitions in place. If you’re coming from Florida or Puerto Rico, these things are some of the major items prohibited:

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bell peppers
  • Blackberries

There are more than 50 kinds of fruits, vegetables, berries and spices that Texas prohibits coming from down south, due to Caribbean Fruit Fly infestation.

If you’re coming from anywhere in the US (except California, Arizona and parts of New Mexico), Texas also prohibits:

  • Hickory trees
  • Pecan trees
  • Walnut trees

As well as “…(any) parts thereof, except extracted nut meats”, thanks to the never-popular pecan weevil.

Finally, these vegetable plants are not restricted but heavily regulated coming from anywhere, due to a whole host of diseases and pests:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Collards
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Eggplants

It’s all right here in this exhaustive “Summary of Plant Protection Regulations from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Give it a read if you have the time and the will. Or just play it simple and leave every last lemon, walnut and berry behind.

Pets

We have some good news for all you Texas-bound pet owners. The Lone Star State merely requires that all dogs and cats be certified as rabies-vaccinated.

The bad news is that something as simple (and responsible) as keeping Rover on a legal leash requires a watch, a map, a thermometer, a tape measure and a weather forecast. According to Texas statute “§ 821.077. Unlawful Restraint of Dog” :

  • (a) An owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog’s movement:
  • (1) between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
  • (2) within 500 feet of the premises of a school; or
  • (3) in the case of extreme weather conditions, including conditions in which:
  • (A) the actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit;
  • (B) a heat advisory has been issued by a local or state authority or jurisdiction; or
  • (C) a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued for the jurisdiction by the National Weather Service.
  • (b) In this section, a restraint unreasonably limits a dog’s movement if the restraint:
  • (1) uses a collar that is pinch-type, prong-type, or choke-type or that is not properly fitted to the dog;
  • (2) is a length shorter than the greater of:
  • (A) five times the length of the dog, as measured from the tip of the dog’s nose to the base of the dog’s tail; or
  • (B) 10 feet;
  • (3) is in an unsafe condition; or
  • (4) causes injury to the dog.

Considering all this, it might just be easier to get a tiger.

We’re not kidding. Reading the Texas laws regarding owning exotic animals – including lions, tigers, bears and gorillas (seriously) – it seems only as difficult to register a “dangerous wild animal” as it does a pickup truck.

(While we’re at it, we’ll mention that it is legal in Texas to own flamethrowers, venomous snakes and, for the truly under-stimulated, military-grade tanks.)

But back to the world most of us inhabit. If you are relocating to Texas, you should know that certain species of fish and other aquatic life are prohibited. Despite their lengthy explanation on the environmental and economical destruction wreaked by the lionfish, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department doesn’t list this non-native critter among their outlawed types of marine life. Here are just a few of the fish that are prohibited:

  • Tilapia
  • Piranhas
  • Freshwater Stingrays
  • Freshwater Eels
  • Temperate Basses
  • Oysters

All resources and information considered, it seems reasonable to believe you’re okay bringing your parakeet with you to your new home in Texas. But we strongly recommend checking with your local authorities as to what laws apply to your pets. As an example, in Waco, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies; all pets must be spayed/neutered and microchipped; dog houses must have at least three walls in addition to a roof and a floor that is not the ground; and no, you cannot give your pet its rabies shot yourself.

Alcohol

The good news here is that Texas puts no limits or taxes on any alcoholic beverages you are transporting into the state, as long as you are in the process of relocating to Texas and the alcohol in your possession is intended for personal consumption only.

The bad news is that the Texas heat will skunk your swill faster than you can say “Lone Star Lager”. So you better hope that your’s isn’t a long distance move in the heat.

Keep in mind, however, that once you are actually settled in the Lone Star State, you’ll be subjected to fines and/or jail time if you fail to declare that case of tequila on your way home from Mexico, or any other alcohol you bought out of state and are transporting back into Texas.

As for figuring out the laws in your particular municipality for purchasing beer, wine or liquor, good luck.

Plants

Texas has no apparent problems with houseplants that are grown indoors in a commercially-prepared potting mix (rather than in soil) and are free of pests and diseases. These may enter Texas without certification.

However, according to the same “Texas Dept. of Agriculture Summary of Plant Protection Regulations” we saw earlier, “houseplants grown or kept outdoors require a phytosanitary certificate from the department of agriculture of the origin state indicating freedom from pests and diseases.”

We’ll be blatantly honest here. There seems no guarantee that your word will be good enough if someone wearing a TDA uniform asks if you’ve ever put your rubber tree plant out on the patio or the front porch, and you say no.

And just in case you were wondering, you can’t bring all that firewood for your backyard chiminea. Texas doesn’t even like Texans moving firewood from one part of the state to another, for fear of spreading potential or active infestations. Check out the Texas info on DontMoveFirewood.org – and consider giving that chiminea a good washing too before trying to carry that across the border into Texas.

Firearms

And what would Texas be without guns? In keeping with their wild, wild west reputation, the state makes it easy for lawful firearms carriers from other states to legally carry in Texas, either through reciprocal or unilateral agreements with those other states. In other words, just like having a driver’s license from another state allows you to legally drive in Texas, having a permit to carry a firearm in another state allows you to legally carry your firearm in Texas.

The analogy is not perfect, of course. Texas has no firearm-carry agreements with Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire. And while you have 90 days upon relocating to Texas to switch your driver’s license over, there is no requirement whatsoever to register your firearm in the State of Texas.

None.

How’s that for wild?

It’s not complete anarchy, of course. “Texas requires any individual in possession of a handgun to inform a law enforcement officer of their permit or license to carry if an officer asks them for identification.” Texas also spells out restrictions and requirements regarding carrying in vehicles, open carry and places where carrying is illegal.

As far as transporting your firearm from your old state to your new home in Texas, your most pressing concern might be following the laws of the various states you may be passing through along your way.

In some ways, Texas seems like an almost lawless land. In others, the laws can seem unduly convoluted. You can have a gun. You can get a tiger. Just be sure to leave the tangerines behind!


Illustrations by Subin Yang

Moving Truck Checked for Explosives, Raises Questions

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Some fancy equipment and a bomb-sniffing dog detected the presence of “potentially explosive material” in or on a Big Foot Moving & Storage truck when a crew arrived to deliver the belongings of a service member who was recently assigned to Hanscom. A security perimeter was established, roads were closed, buildings were evacuated, and the FBI and ATF were alerted.

“Given the times we live in, we operate in an abundance of caution,” said Boston State Police Major Fran Leahy after a moving truck was stopped at the gates of Hanscom Air Force Base just northwest of Boston.

Reportedly no explosives were found and the truck was allowed to enter the base to deliver their load. However, a number of pallets were removed for more testing. Major Leahy states that Big Foot, an approved contractor for the federal government, is cooperating fully and “no one is suspected of a crime.”

Big Foot’s statement on the matter can be found here.

The obvious and as yet unanswered question is: What was the “potentially explosive material”?

Lab testing may provide the answer, which may not be quite as intriguing as the plot of a terror and espionage thriller. It could be the residue of a flammable liquid that leaked out of a weed whacker or a barbecue grill. It could be paint thinner. It could be lawn fertilizer. It could be something that definitely should not go on a moving truck – or in a warehouse – but could (and may prove to be) something found in most garages across the country.

“This was the right response for the situation,” we are told.

Right, for the times we live in.

Blocking New Movers: West Virginia the Latest State to Repeal Unconstitutional Anti-Competitor Law

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First, we saw it in Missouri, then in Kentucky. Then in Oregon and Pennsylvania.

One by one, states are repealing laws requiring new moving companies to obtain a special “Certificate of Need” permit before they open up shop.

What the heck is a “Certificate of Need”? Commonly referred to as “competitor’s veto” laws, these statutes have allowed existing moving companies to block new companies – read: new competition – from entering the marketplace. But now small moving company owners like Raleigh Bruner in Lexington and Cosmo and MaryAnne Losco in Philadelphia can operate without their competitors’ permission, thanks in part to the Pacific Legal Foundation’s fight against these unconstitutional laws.

West Virginia Movers. AP Photo/(Denis Poroy)

The latest case played out in West Virginia and involved a Virginia-based moving company – located just ten miles from the West Virginia border – that had been barred from performing moves into, out of or within West Virginia. With that state repealing their competitor’s veto law, plaintiff Arty Vogt (and a host of unnamed others) can now operate freely and, in accordance with the protections of the constitution, earn a living without undue government interference.

Usually, we hear a few words from the people who have been affected by the existence – and subsequent repeal – of these anti-competitor laws. This time we get a full-blown personal account of Mr. Vogt’s very personal struggle to exercise his right to earn a living. In Vogt’s own words:

In 2012 we received a letter from the state of West Virginia telling us that we did not have proper legal authority to service local and intrastate moves within that state. This was a devastating blow to our small border-town business. We received calls nearly every day from potential customers in West Virginia asking for help — customers we now had to refuse”

As revealed later in this story, thousands of dollars in legal fees and jumping through the regulatory hoops didn’t help.

“Even though we were professionally qualified to provide the service, had a federal license to do interstate moves, and had never had a complaint, these factors didn’t overcome protests from the existing moving companies, who claimed they could handle the business without us. Remarkably, the major protest came from a large moving company with its nearest local office 150 miles from the area in which we operated.”

But this is America. And in the end, the Constitution – and Arty Vogt – won out.

Unfortunately, as the PLF states at the end of their own piece on Vogt and West Virginia, many states still have similar anti-competition laws on their books, applied to many industries, not just ours.

And so the fight for free enterprise, and thus more moving competition, rolls on.

Florida and New York Grapple With New Sex Offender Laws for Movers

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On June 9th Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill directed at moving companies and the former sex offenders they may hire. (more…)

Negotiating the Hostage Situation: Arizona’s New Law Trumps an Old Moving Scam

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This past February, Arizona took its first big step toward addressing an issue that plagues the entire nation.

“Yay! …Um, what’s the issue?”

The issue is the nasty practice by some super-nasty movers of holding a customer’s goods hostage until a ransom (i.e., a price much higher than the original quote) is paid. In a move that we might argue is long overdue, Arizona’s House passed HB2145, a bill mandating that a mover has an “absolute obligation” to deliver the customer’s goods.

“That’s good! …Right?”

Well, such legislation may sound right and good, but the Arizona Trucking Association wasn’t entirely pleased with that “absolute obligation” part, contending that this left customers with no compelling incentive to pay for their move at all if they didn’t want to. As they state on their website:

“ATA is concerned that, as written, will hurt legitimate movers who will have little recourse against customers who refuse to pay for services… ATA agrees with the intent of the bill. We want to eliminate bad movers who undermine the public trust. However, HB2145 has unintended consequences that will seriously jeopardize legitimate moving companies.”

The ATA’s point was well-taken, and HB2145 was revised to allow for the possibility that the final cost of the move could be higher than the original estimate due to legitimate reasons (e.g., extra items or more weight). In such an instance, HB2145 would require the customer to pay at least the original estimate, and in turn, the mover would be required to unload the goods.

And if one party decides not to play nice?

“If the mover balks when the original estimate is paid,” explains Tucson.com, “the legislation specifically empowers a police officer to direct the mover to unload the goods. Conversely, if the customer refuses to pay even the original estimate, the mover would be free to drive off with all of the items still in the truck, exercising what is called a “carrier’s lien” on the goods. There would, however, be an obligation on the mover to ensure that no harm comes to the items being held.”

On March 20th with these amendments in place, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety voted for the passage of HB2145, which was then passed by the Senate on April 18th. On May 1st, it was signed into law by Governor Ducey.

“Cool.”

Yes, definitely cool.

Is Your Move Tax-Deductible? It Might Be for Almost 8 Million Americans

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Did you move for work last year? Did you pay for any of it yourself?

If you answered yes to both these questions, Uncle Sam wants to help!

(more…)

What’s it Like to Pack Up the President?

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January may be slow for many of us, but for one company things could hardly get any more hectic – particularly on January 20th every four to eight years.

CNN reports that while Trump is down in front of the capitol building taking the oath of office, a team of around one hundred movers were at the White house, involved in a sort of “organized chaos”: six hours to move all the Obamas’ belongings out and, from the other side of the circular driveway, hauling in all the belongings of whoever from Trump’s family is moving in.

(more…)

Which States Gained and Lost the Most People From Moving Last Year? We Break It Down

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[Synopsis: As United, Atlas reveal their annual migration stats, states try to explain themselves.]

United Van Lines has done it again!

They’ve released their nationwide migration statistics for the year, that is. And right off the bat, we see some small surprises.

(more…)

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