This Washington

Extra Fizz: Towing Bill Irks Seattle. Again

Seattle thought they were okay with Rep. Pollet's legislation, until they read the fine print.

By Josh Feit March 4, 2013

PubliCola has obtained a copy of an "urgent" email that Craig Engelking (Seattle's lobbyist in Olympia) sent to Seattle's delegation in the state house.

Engelking sent the  email (full title: "Urgent -- problem with towing bill HB 1625") early this morning.

The bill is actually sponsored by a member of Seattle's house delegation, state Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle). And a couple of Seattle and Seattle-area reps have signed on: Reps. Jamie Pedersen (D-43), Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34), Zack Hudgins (D-11), and Steve Bergquist (D-11). 

The bill caused a standoff between Pollet and the city last year because it set higher caps on towing companies than Seattle wanted. It also  had language that preempted local jurisdictions from setting their own rates. (That bill failed; meanwhile Seattle went ahead later last year and passed its own ordinance with stricter rate caps on towing companies. The towing industry has sued the city.)

Pollet brought the bill back this year saying there was no preemption language. Seattle was on board until they read the bill a little closer.

It turns out the bill actually does preempt Seattle's ordinance.

Here's Engelking's email, in part:

Good morning Representatives,

I wanted to bring your attention to an urgent matter. Our analysts have caught a problem with the towing bill, HB 1625. We apologize this wasn't spotted sooner.

As you know, this past year we established through ordinance maximum towing and storage rates within the City. The intent of HB 1625, as we understood it, was not to impact our local rates, but to establish statewide maximum rates. The way the bill is structured however, and interacts with current law, there's a strong argument that the City would be required to adopt the significantly higher statewide rates. It's our understanding that this was not the intent of the sponsors, nor was it ours! For the past week we've been working with Rep. Pollett to find resolution to the matter, but now that the bill is on 2nd Reading I wanted to bring it to your attention.


Engelking's concerns are well founded. The bill is an amendment to current law—and so would be governed by that law—which says:  "A city, town, or county that adopts an ordinance or resolution concerning unauthorized, abandoned, or impounded vehicles shall include the applicable provisions of this chapter." In English: Any local towing ordinance has to use the provisions in the ordinance...which sets higher rates.

"2nd Reading" means the bill could come up for a floor vote any time, though we did not see it on today's floor calendar.

We have a call in to Rep. Pollet.

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