GCLA lobbyists Rob Grossglauser (L) and Gregg Cook (R) with Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian, D-46th District (center) pictured in the Churchill Room at the Proud Bird restaurant in Los Angeles, site of the annual GCLA holiday party, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Photo by Martin Romjue)
LOS ANGELES — Lobbyists for the Greater California Livery Association
outlined industry regulatory ups and downs in 2015 as the group anticipates more enforcement against illegal operators and better background checks for TNC drivers in 2016.
Speaking at the group’s annual holiday party Dec. 15 in Los Angeles, Lobbyists Gregg Cook and Rob Grossglauser of Government Affairs Consulting in Sacramento outlined two key successes and two challenges ahead for the state trade group:
Gov. Jerry Brown signed two key pieces of legislation in September, helpful to the state’s chauffeured transportation industry.
- AB863, authored by Assembly Member Bill Dodd, D-4th district, will require stretch limousines to need only pop-out windows to meet state requirements for emergency exits. A previous state law prompted by a fatal San Francisco Bay Area stretch limousine fire in May 2013 required a fifth door on all stretches as of this year. AB863 modified that rule in favor of the industry.
- SB541, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-13th district, requires the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulated charter-party carriers statewide, to begin spending more money in 2016 on enforcement against illegal operators and for personnel and technology that speeds up the processing of licensing and administrative procedures. Limousine operators pay a percentage of their gross revenues into to the PUC Transportation Reimbursement Account, which amounts to about $3 million per year. The PUC reported in its 2015-16 budget a $9 million surplus in the account, and anticipates another $3 million in 2016. The law also requires that 1) the CPUC allow the GCLA to participate in the development of its plans to implement the funds; 2) the CPUC enforcement division must meet with a GCLA representative at least once per year to consult on enforcement actions against illegal limo operators.
“The legislation tells the PUC you better start doing the job you’re supposed to be doing,” Cook told LCT.
- Driver background checks: AB24, a commercial for-hire driver background check bill sponsored by Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian, D- 46th District, failed due to disagreements among legislators about the scope and of the checks. Backed by the GCLA and the California Taxi Association, the bill’s proposals likely will return in another legislative bill during 2016. The bill would require all for-hire drivers, including chauffeurs, taxi drivers and TNC drivers, to get Department of Justice certified background checks before they could work for a ground transportation company in California. However, a requirement that TNC drivers participate in the Department of Motor Vehicles pull-notice program, that alerts employers of driving records, was approved in a separate bill signed by Gov. Brown in 2015.
- Tour bus inspection fees: Following a Nov. 13 accident in San Francisco involving an unregistered double-decker tour bus, the Legislature likely will consider a measure to increase bus inspection fees. But first, legislators and regulators must decide what constitutes a bus. Statues are vague on the issue, with one rule defining a bus as any vehicle that carries 11 passengers or more. Cook explained that bus definitions on the books haven’t kept up with the many advances and varieties of limousine bus, shuttle, mini-bus and van models now commonly used by chauffeured transportation operations. The GCLA has yet to develop an official position on this new, floated proposal.
Call To Action
The lobbyists and holiday party guest speaker, Rep. Adrin Nazarian, called on California operators to help advocate for fairer regulations in the struggle against transportation network companies (TNC)s. Cook advised attendees to join GCLA leaders for the group’s annual Legislative Day in Sacramento on Feb. 10, 2016, where small groups of GCLA operators meet with State Assembly members and Senators throughout the day.
“It’s not worth a damn without you,” Cook said. “We will arrange the appointments for you so they can come face to face with this industry. This is your chance to talk with the legislators who represent you and inform them of the interests of the industry.
Nazarian, who Cook hailed as one of two legislators in the state friendliest to the limousine industry, out of 120 total elected members, encouraged operators to step up and participate.
“I know what it’s like to be an underdog,” said Nazarian, who emigrated to the U.S. from Iran at age 8 and was first elected to his seat in a 2014 race that pitted him against an opponent who outspent him by seven times during the campaign. “I don’t have a problem at all picking a good fight. You have a good partner. Now, what I expect from all of you is to show up, raise your hand and make sure you get heard. That’s why our democracy structure works. It does work but you need to show up. You can have this wonderful party, but if you don’t act, I don’t know for how many years you can have this party.”
Nazarian told GCLA members to pick up the phone and meet with their elected officials to advocate for pro-industry legislation and measures. “There is a $3 trillion tech industry in state that doesn’t need to pick up the phone. That’s what you are up against. A lot of those folks invest in companies that compete against you.”