Operators Triumph In Tampa Bay

Posted on May 4, 2010 by - Also by this author

SILLY BUREAUCRACY: Operators contending with inconsistent and unreasonable regulations in Hillsborough County, Florida win a key victory.
  
As most of you know by now, I never let the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission fall far off my radar screen. It is clearly better than any Emmy Award-winning soap opera. From deciding who gets a permit and who doesn’t, what is a livery vehicle and what is not, this “Dukes of Hazard”-level organization continues to amuse me.
 
I have previously reported such antics as raising the application fee for operators from $500 to $5000. That was rescinded. I have reported that the HCPTC declared a Mercedes “S” Class sedan was not a luxury vehicle based on the view of commissioner Kevin White. Then, there was the attempt to control which operators could pass through the county and an attempt to assert control over a free shuttle service that essentially uses golf carts.
 
Those that challenged the HCPTC were informed there simply was no way to appeal the decisions of the HCPTC. That’s when Florida operators Moshe Lieb of Tampa Bay Limousine and Walter “Gunny” Kozak of Gunny’s Travel raised eyebrows with the Florida Legislature. Kozak took his issue to the Florida Joint Administrative Procedures Committee. I am happy to say that my articles were reviewed by that agency as part of the hearing. 
 
Specifically, a copy of a letter sent from Brian T. Moore, attorney for the Florida Legislature, to the HCPTC challenging its ability to arbitrarily define what they control. More specifically, the letter stated, “definitions appear to differ from legislative definitions” and basically went on to say that the commission had modified its authority beyond the scope of the government’s intention. That March 2009 letter was ignored and followed by a September 2009 letter asking why changes had yet to be made.
 
When the Florida Joint Administrative Procedures Committee met recently, Moore clued the board in on lack of ability for citizens to challenge HCPTC, including through a Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) channel designed to be a last resort for a citizen to challenge government. The Procedures Committee recommended that the act creating the HCPTC be amended to include a rules challenge provision.
 
The recommendation of the Florida Joint Administrative Procedures Committee was picked up by Rep. Rich Glorioso who sponsored the bill to amend the law. The HCPTC did its best to try and kill the bill through its lobbyist, Victor DiMaio, except that the bill had a “co-sponsor” as well, and on April 28, 2010 those citizens finally obtained due process rights. Kozak and Lieb did their own lobbying to make sure it passed.

Beginning July 1, 2010, any person with a substantial interest can challenge any rule or proposed rule of the HCPTC through a DOAH hearing.
 
The biggest difference between DOAH and a regular civil court is that the petitioner does not need to be considered an injured party in order to file suit.
In a regular court, the HCPTC could argue about the purpose of one of its silly and arbitrary rules. The only thing a DOAH hearing considers is whether the rule complies with the Florida Administrative Procedures Act.
 
In conclusion, such determinations and opinions by the HCPTC about what constitutes a limousine, van or luxury car can be reviewed by a DOAH hearing to determine if the HCPTC’s definition of a limousine matches with that of the state, or if added rules and words by the HCPTC enlarges or modifies a state statute, thereby rendering it invalid.  
 
This regulatory clash is the story of two tenacious operators who would not be intimidated by runaway bureaucracy and instead fought for what they believed in. They have made great strides for fair competition among Florida operators.
 

— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor

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