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PHILADELPHIA — In a pivotal victory for the limousine industry, the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association (PRLA) won a declaratory judgment action against the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Feb. 14.
The ruling renders the PPA’s fee schedule unconstitutional because the statute that establishes the PPA’s budget process gives the PPA too much power to establish spending levels and to allocate regulatory expenses, and because it fails to give parties aggrieved by the fee schedule the ability to challenge the fees.
“We challenged the Parking Authority’s budget process for the Taxi and Limousine Division which is described in Section 5707B of the Parking Authority Law,” said the PRLA’s attorney, Michael S. Henry. “That process requires the Philadelphia Parking Authority to submit a budget with a proposed fee schedule to the appropriations committee in both the Senate and House. If neither the House nor the Senate takes any action, it becomes effective.”
Henry listed several supporting reasons for the challenge:
- The law does not impose any limitation on the amount that the Parking Authority can spend on taxi and limousine regulation.
- It provides no guidelines on how the regulatory expenses are allocated among the different carriers.
- The Pennsylvania constitution requires the legislature to make policy decisions. This statute basically lets all of the policy decisions to be made by Philadelphia Parking Authority — things like how much they are going to spend and how they are going to assess the individual carriers to pay for the regulatory expenses.
- The law did not provide any way to object to the assessment either through the administrative process or the courts. It violated due process as there was no way to appeal the assessment decision.
Although the PRLA did win in essence, they did not win on all points. Henry explained that the PRLA also asked the court to strike down the entire law because, without the funding decision, he did not believe that the legislature would have enacted the law. The court did not agree on that point but it did strike down the law as unconstitutional because of the unlawful delegation and due process argument.
Henry explained that the court entered an injunction against the PPA to prevent it from enforcing the fee schedule against any of the parties in the suit. The members of PRLA are not required to pay regulatory fees that have been adopted under this process. Any other carrier who wasn’t a party could raise the objection as well.
The PRLA’s case was heard by an en banc panel of all of the active judges of the court. En banc panels are held four times a year. They select the cases they will hear. They are typically cases that court believes are significant.
However, the PPA has appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will set a briefing schedule and a date to hear arguments on whether they should uphold the Commonwealth decision. The appeal process could take over a year from start to finish. Additionally, the Pennsylvania legislature could decide to amend the statute to fix the constitutional defects in the law.