Sobel (ink not shown)

Sobel (ink not shown)

Many visits to tattoo shops occur in the wee small hours, and often only after tooatron has flowed. But on October 26th, Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel made a scheduled stop at Stevie Moon Tattoo in Fort Lauderdale, for a sit-down between rivals-turned-allies. Moon, a veteran ink artist with a strong sense for the public policy arena, raised the hue and cry in the spring when an earlier bill sponsored by Sobel made the legislative rounds, a bill which he says was “too regulatory.” The early version of Senate Bill 1130 mandated that new tattooists be approved by a board made up of existing tattooists; Moon and other critics said that could have opened the door to corruption and intimidation in the industry. Other provisions included stiff penalties for artists with communicable diseases who inked a healthy customer, or who tatted someone with such a disease, and would have prevented tattoo artists who were in town for a convention from plying their trade. And Moon says legitimate tattooists already safeguard against the transmission of HIV or other diseases between themselves and clients. After a somewhat contentious beginning, Sobel and Moon found they weren’t coming from such different places in principle. The retooled bill that Sobel will sponsor in the next legislative session creates licensing guidelines for tattooists, similar to those already mandated for body-piercers, with required training in blood-borne pathogens and universal precautions, as well as continuing education requirements which are common in other regulated professions. Sobel, who serves as Vice-Chair of the Senate’s Health Regulation Committee, says public health and safety was her primary concern from the get-go. “Like the responsible members of the tattoo industry, we want to make sure that qualified artists are coming into contact with the public, which has a right to know it’s in capable and qualified hands.” Moon agrees. “There are naturally going to be questions about things like Hepatitis-C, and HIV, and disease transmission, and also more mundane but important issues like allergies to pigments. Everyone who is conscientious about these issues appreciates that,” he says, as something that sounds a lot like Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture plays through his studio.

Dr. Noah Lee, a friend of Moon’s and a communicable diseases specialist was also on hand. “This bill provides an important of legitimacy to the industry,” he said. For her part, Sobel said she didn’t want to proceed with the legislation before she had a chance to step into an actual tattoo studio. “She really wanted to learn more about what was happening in the actual environment. It’s made her more informed,” said Moon. And yes, Sobel was sporting “ink” on the day of her pow wow with Moon; alas, it was just a rub-on.