This Washington

Limo Operators Drive Opposition to Regulation

By Josh Cohen January 28, 2010

Seattle Limo Drivers  roll into Olympia

Seattle's limo and town car drivers came out in force yesterday afternoon to protest North Seattle Rep. Scott White's (D-46)  bill that proposes to regulate unlicensed limo carriers in the state. As Erica reported, the bill would require limo and town cars to register the same way taxis do. It would also create a civil infraction for punishing those who did not register their vehicles.

Rep. White and the panel testifying in support of the bill reiterated over and over that this bill is about public safety.

"Consumers have an expectation and right to get a vehicle for hire that's insured and is driven by a safe driver," White said.

A panel of supporters testified including Denise Movius of the City of Seattle Department of Revenue & Consumer, Chris Van Dyke of the Yellow Cab company, Steve Salins of Shuttle Express, and other vested interests.

Representing the city of  Seattle, Movius said that they fully support the bill, but have concerns about resources for enforcement. The city's stance mirrored that of Rep. White's. Movius said they've received complaints from constituents about aggressive drivers snatching up luggage and refusing to hand it back in order to get customers.

The oppositional panel included Yusuf Cabdi of the United African Public Affairs Committee of Washington and longtime limo drivers Muhammad Abadas and Muhammad Al Ansie. They testified that they have been left out of the conversation surrounding this issue, that this is an issue of competition not public safety, and that they support regulation, but think sweeping rules will disadvantage independent drivers. The proposal was are an unfair way to deal with a "few bad seeds," they said.

Cabdi said that the bill has been revised four times since it was introduced last session, but his group hasn't been asked for input once. He also expressed concerns with a potential for harassment.

"The bill states that an inspector can stop a limo driver anytime, even when they have a passenger," Cabdi said. "This could encourage discrimination and harassment and discourage people from using limos."

In his testimony, Abadas said the bill is not actually an issue of public safety, but an attempt by the Yellow Cab company to eliminate their competition. His testimony was repeated by many of the 35 others testifying in opposition.
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