This Washington

Extra Fizz: Seattle, State Settle Towing Debate

The city of Seattle and the state come to an agreement on towing rates.

By Erica C. Barnett March 11, 2013

As we reported last week, city lobbyists sent an "urgent" email to the city's delegation in Olympia urging them to oppose state Rep. Gerry Pollet's (D-46, North Seattle) bill setting a statewide cap on the rates private towing companies could charge. Seattle's lobbying shop opposed the bill because, they argued, it would preempt a separate ordinance passed by the city of Seattle that sets a lower maximum rate on tows. 

Pollet has argued all along that the language in his bill allows cities to set their own, lower caps than his legislation (which caps the fees at about $270 in Seattle).

But the city disagrees, and proposed their own amendment to the bill stating that the legislation "does not affect the authority of any city, town, or county to enforce, maintain, or amend any ordinance, enacted prior to January 1, 2013 and valid under state law in existence at the time of its enactment, that regulates maximum allowable rates and related charges for private impounds by registered tow truck operators."

Today, Pollet confirmed that he, the state towing lobby, and the city have agreed to adopt the city's language. In other words: No preemption. 

Pollet still doesn't seem to think the amendment was necessary, but says he, the city, and the towing association "reached an agreement on how we could word an amendment that assured everyone that the city's newfound concern about the ability to continue with the city ordinance."

"The city signed off on the bill and then came in late, on the day before floor action, and said, We've revisited our analysis and now we have a concern that we didn't" before. "I'm not going to say whether or not I think it was necessary. ... The important thing is that the city is confident now that the bill does not effect the litigation or its ability to have the existing ordinance continue."  

The state association of tow-truck operators has sued the city over its cap on towing rates. 

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