PRLA Marches On State Capital

Posted on June 3, 2009 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

HARRISBURG, Penn. — The board of the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association headed to Harrisburg Tuesday to garner support for Senate Bill 759, now in committee, which would transfer regulatory authority from the Philadelphia Parking Authority back to the State Public Utilities Commission.

The association wants this power shift because it believes that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has created onerous, aggressive regulations, and has remained unchecked by any commonwealth agency.

“The Philadelphia Parking Authority reports to no one but themselves,” said Philip Jagiela, president of the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association. “The fines and fees they generate are returned solely to the pockets of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, unlike the Public Utilities Commission whose revenues go the state general fund. The Parking Authority does not want to see this happen because, if the bill passes, they will lose 350 patronage jobs.”

On Tuesday, the group met with key staff members for senators on the Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee where the bill sits waiting for both review and a vote before going to the full Senate for the first of three votes.

“The process can take a month or up to two years,” said James Schantz, administrative aide to Sen. Lisa Boscola, a co-sponsor of the bill and minority chairman of the committee. Schantz helped the group in setting up appointments and coordinating the day. The association would like the bill to travel quickly through this process as renewals with the Philadelphia Parking Authority are due in July and the state Congress will go on summer recess as soon as the state budget is complete sometime within the month.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority was rendered a state agency by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court earlier this year. As such, all proposed legislation will need to first go through an independent review council audit and public hearings prior to any changes being made. The court ruled that the Philadelphia Parking Authority had not been doing this. While in meetings with senatorial staff members, the PRLA learned that the Philadelphia Parking Authority would be appearing before the Appellate Court on Monday, June 6, to argue the fact that they had indeed followed the letter of the law when instituting new rules. This hearing could affect the bill.

The lobbying group suffered a setback early in the day when its meeting with Sen. Robert Tomlinson was cancelled. Tomlinson, the chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee, will be a critical in scheduling of the bill within the committee. “We have asked for a meeting with him in his district,” said Jagiela, who is also a constituent.

Also disconcerting to the group was the fact that most of the congressional staff that they met with already had met with the Philadelphia Parking Authority. They spent most of the meetings dispelling the Authority claims that the PRLA had never voiced any concerns to them.

The lobbying group included Jagiela of Aries Transportation Group; Tony Viscusi, Global Limousine; Steve Rhoades, Rhoades Limousine; Michael Barretto, Flyte Tyme International; Jeff Shanker, A-1/Elite, Jim Salinger, Unique Limousine; and James Schantz.

“We estimated that it cost over $15,000 in our time for us to be in Harrisburg. It is a cost though that we feel is worth it,” explains Jagiela. Unfortunately, operators in the association will not be able to maintain many more of these trips being away from their businesses. “This is just another reason that we would like to see the bill move through the Senate very fast,” laments Jagiela.

The next step in the process will be to continue the letter-writing campaign and to propel the separate House bill in order to give it the same momentum as the Senate bill. Additional trips to Harrisburg will be required to produce the desired results. While the Parking Authority marches on Harrisburg on the public dime, the PRLA members must leave their business unattended or in the hands of staff and do so at their own expense. This is just another chapter in the struggle for regulatory fairness with more to come.

Source: Linda Moore, LCT Magazine

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