SEATTLE — State lawmakers inched one step closer this week to granting the city of Seattle long-sought authority to crack down on for-hire Town Car drivers who illegally operate without licenses or insurance and put consumers at risk.
For years, a growing number of fancy, for-hire Lincoln Town Cars have been operated illegally on Seattle streets, taking business from taxis and legitimate limo companies who follow the law, city officials say. But the city's taxi regulators have been unable to take action against town cars because the state Department of Licensing has jurisdiction. The state, however, does not have enough people or money to consistently investigate violations on city streets.
On Monday, the Senate Transportaton Committee voted 9-3 to approve Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1775, which would allow Seattle's Consumer Affairs office to assume the same enforcement authority over Town Cars and limousines that it wields over the taxi industry.
"This issue is all about enforcement. DOL does not have the resources to provide on-steet enforcement. This has created a serious problem in downtown Seattle where illegal limousines operate all day, every day," said Denise Movius, Seattle's director of Revenue and Consumer Affairs division, during Monday's committee hearing.
The bill already passed the state House of Representatives last month and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, where lawmakers must decide whether it should get a full vote on the Senate floor. The legislative session ends March 11.
The legislation, introduced by state Rep. Scott White, D-Seattle, is supported by Seattle taxi drivers and the Puget Sound Limo Association, which worked with legislators on the issue. By transferring regulatory authority from the state to the city, there likely would be better consumer protections and stronger enforcement against violations by Town Car drivers who illegally solicit passengers outside train stations, hotels and Colman Dock.
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Source: Scott Gutierrez, SeattlePI.com staff