TRADE OFF: Passage of S.B. 5502 means more rules and costs for limousine operators, but it simplifies those rules across the board and steps up enforcement against illegal operators.
SEATTLE — The PUGET SOUND LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION supported the recent passage of a “limo bill” that raises fees but puts everyone under the same rules while cracking down on those who don’t follow them.
The legislation, Substitute Senate Bill 5502, beefs up requirements for obtaining a chauffeur's license, including the addition of random drug tests, and creates new civil infractions for drivers who operate without a license or who fail to keep proper business records on file, according to a REPORT IN THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER.
The association was formed three years ago in response to the proposed bill. During that time, the association worked to modify the proposed bill so it would be palatable to Washington operators, said Eli Darland, a board director of the PSLA and the owner of Rare Form Limousine in Seattle.
“This is a big victory for the association,” Darland said. “There were no compromises we made where we weren’t willing to give something up to get this thing passed.”
The bill essentially combined and revamped city, state, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) rules into one set for the entire state that can be enforced by local authorities. It also raises fees on legal operators to enforce the rules and deter illegal Town Car operators.
“We adopted most of what the airport has agreed to, and put it into the bill,” Darland told LCT. “Credentialing will be statewide through the Department of Licensing, and it will get rid of redundancy of regulation between SeaTac and the state. The airport is on board because it meets stricter qualifications and brings them to the statewide level. For us legal operators, it is a huge benefit.”
The old limousine fees were: Limousine vehicle certificates, $25; limousine carrier license: $40; and limousine vehicle inspections, $25. Under the new law, any fee related to limousine vehicle certificates must not exceed $75; any fee related to a limousine carrier license for a business must not exceed $350; and any fee related to limousine vehicle inspections must not exceed $25.
“It ups the cost of doing business by building in the cost of enforcement,” Darland said of the higher fees. “That was never accounted for in the original licensing fees. It was just for paperwork and processing costs.”
The effort to formulate the bill also reflected a high level of cooperation among the PSLA and various local ethnic groups that represent independent chauffeurs and drivers, Darland said. Much of the Seattle metro chauffeured transportation market is comprised of independent, single-vehicle immigrant operators.
“One of the things we did was open our arms to these groups and meet and hear their concerns, and hear what it was they wanted to do differently in the bill,” Darland said. “A coalition of people from different ethnicities and groups formed a unified front to the state Legislature so we could all agree on basic things.”
Sources: Martin Romjue, LCT editor; SeattlePI.com