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LOS ANGELES — The Greater California Livery Association may be taking an annual summer break from membership meetings, but its regulatory, legislative, and legal efforts are moving full bore ahead.
Following its May 8 meeting in Los Angeles, the GCLA leadership released a series of updates for California operators, drawing upon input from its professional consultants, lobbyists and attorneys.
The regulatory and tax climate in California is being driven by a severe budget crisis, with record state deficits and calls for tax increases by the Democratic majority governing party. Caught in the lurch are small to medium sized businesses, and in particular, wealthy wage-earners who often patronize luxury chauffeured transportation companies, among other high-end services.
However, the GCLA so far appears to be steering a productive course of forestalling worst-case scenarios of harmful regulations.
A sales tax for limo service?
Responding to shortfalls in California’s proposed budget for 2012-13, Assembly Member Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, has introduced Assembly Bill 2540 on sales and use taxes. The legislation would expand sales and use tax to heretofore untaxed services. Reacting to the cry of “tax the millionaires,” Gatto suggested a sales tax on services provided, as a general rule, to millionaires; among his tax targets, limousine and charter bus services. GCLA joined a coalition of business interests to oppose Assembly Bill 2540 and the expansion of sales taxes to services. Opposition was based on the belief that the legislation would put small businesses out of work or drive small businesses underground, hurt working families, create costly and extensive administration problems, and worsen California’s business climate. These arguments resonated with legislators and in April the bill was pulled from the agenda of a Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee hearing. The opposition coalition had succeeded.
Labor standards: Laws, regulations and enforcement
Responding to pleas from small business operators, Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, introduced Senate Bill 1333 that would assist small business operators in obtaining information regarding labor law regulations and enforcement. Blakeslee’s legislation would establish a “labor standards consultation unit.” Small business operators who may not readily have access to legal assistance would be able to contact the consultation unit to gain advice and counsel on California’s labor laws and regulations. The GCLA is supporting this legislation. Sen. Roderick Wright introduced Senate Bill 1099 reacting to concerns that state regulations are constantly changing and small business has little knowledge to those changes until some enforcement officer sends a notice of violation. Wright’s legislation would require the California Office of Administrative Law to make available, a no charge, the full text of the California Code of Regulations on its web-site, resulting in another hoped for solution for small business operators.
Reaction to a tragedy
In the summer of 2010, a young man, after participating in an evening of riding around the San Francisco Bay Area with friends and too much alcohol in a charter bus, departed the bus and drove his car into a tree with a tragic loss of life. His horrified parents wanted a state law that would prevent this from ever happening again. The result: Assembly Member Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced Assembly Bill 45 that would have dramatically affected the presence of alcohol in charter vehicles. The GCLA has been deeply engaged in negotiations with the Assemblyman and his staff. Hill visited Gateway Limousines in Burlingame to learn more about the limousine industry and the controls in place to protect minors. Today, the legislation appropriately places the responsibility for monitoring the availability and consumption of alcohol by a minor on the contracting party or his or her designee, not on the vehicle chauffeur or operator. The close working relationship with Hill has helped facilitate and agreement to amend Assembly Bill 45 that adds to current law the authorized use of electronic waybills in place of traditional paper, hard copy waybills. The GCLA is actively supporting Assembly Bill 45.
In its summary, GCLA lobbyists wrote: “The vast majority of legislative proposals are a direct reaction to an issue of importance to legislators. Some of those reactions make sense and others, quite frankly don’t. GCLA legislative advocates monitor all bills introduced in the California Legislature and engage in those that have a direct impact on the limousine industry and limousine operators and employees. The GCLA legislative committee and the GCLA executive board make the determination of what direction our legislative activities should take and define the outcomes desired.”