Regulations

California Operators Get Attention At State Capitol

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GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook of Government Affairs Consulting (center) leads a debriefing session on Feb. 26, 2014 after GCLA members visited state legislative offices at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Photos by Martin Romjue
GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook of Government Affairs Consulting (center) leads a debriefing session on Feb. 26, 2014 after GCLA members visited state legislative offices at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Photos by Martin Romjue

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — GCLA leaders and members recently took on one of the toughest industry political assignments possible: Go into a one-party capital town not known for business friendliness and line up support for a private sector industry.

And then do it while ducking raindrops and dashing across Capitol grounds as a three-day winter rainstorm approaches.

Against such an inhospitable backdrop of bad weather, growing transportation regulations and Democratic supra-majorities in the California Legislature and State Senate, the 23 members of the GCLA fanned out throughout the Capitol and nearby offices on Feb. 26 where they met with select legislators and their staff members.

This was the first Greater California Livery Association lobbying event in Sacramento in at least seven years, and was made possible by the group’s hired lobbying team of Gregg Cook and Rob Grossglauser of Government Affairs Consulting. The experienced Sacramento political veterans, whose office sits across the street from the Capitol building, set up and coordinated a roster of 31 separate appointments with legislators and staff who have influence over laws and rules affecting charter-party carriers.

Teams of four to six operators dispersed to the list of continuous morning and afternoon appointments, with the composition of the teams shifting throughout the day so operators could meet with a diverse mix of representatives. GCLA leaders attending included: President Rich Azzolino, First Vice President Kevin Illingworth, Second Vice President John Raftery and Secretary Anne Daniells. Among participating board directors: Gary Buffo, also the President of the National Limousine Association, Christopher Quinn, David Kinney, Alex Darbahani, Perry Barin and Matthew Strack.

The lobbying event was held at a crucial time for the chauffeured transportation industry in California, as it contends with a political environment in which limousine services are increasingly viewed as cash cows among local and state regulatory authorities eager to levy fees and fines. Meanwhile, Uber and transportation network companies that do not fully comply with charter party carrier laws are undercutting legal, legitimate chauffeured transportation companies that follow all the rules, thereby creating an unfair and untenable competitive situation.

The industry also has received intense scrutiny in the wake of the stretch limousine fire May 4 near San Francisco in which five women burned to death. Although a final investigation concluded the cause was a unique mechanical malfunction, legislators nevertheless moved quickly to pass and propose onerous new safety regulations that will make limousine operations more costly to run.

The legislative appointments all were off-the-record to preserve the integrity of political communication and negotiation, but operators later shared insights during a late afternoon debriefing and strategy session at the lobbying firm’s offices. Most came away with positive impressions, particularly in instances where they had opportunities to educate legislators and staffs about how limousine companies operate and clear up any misconceptions about the industry.

California State Capitol, Sacramento.
California State Capitol, Sacramento.

Four Fronts
The GCLA and its lobbyists are staying out front on four key areas of legislation, either passed or proposed, to promote a more hospitable business environment for chauffeured ground transportation. The below summaries are from a talking points sheet prepared by Government Affairs Consulting that operators referred to during their appointments:

  • Stretched Limousine Inspections: Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation (SB 338) that would have required limousines stretched to be inspected annually by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) at a fee not to exceed $75. In his veto message, Brown indicated that the fee was not adequate and wanted the legislature to adopt a measure that allowed for full cost of the inspection. Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, has re-introduced the issue (SB 611) this year. The GCLA requests that the legislation require the CHP to determine the number and locations of affected vehicles, consider options to lessen the costs to the CHP and the financial impact on limousine operators, require consultation with charter-party carriers, and require a detailed analysis of the inspection cost determination.
  • Modification of Stretched Vehicles: Senate Bill 109 became law on Jan. 1, 2014. It requires limousines that have been stretched to increase seating capacity as of Jan.1, 2015 to provide additional emergency exits, including the installation of roof-top egress, a fifth door or “pop-out” windows. The legislation requires vehicles in service to be modified by Jan. 1, 2016. This legislation was adopted without detailed analysis of the actual cost of implementation, the impact of the modification on the structural safety of the vehicle, or the availability of vendors to accomplish the modification. [The GCLA would like to get this legislation reversed or modified to allow more time for safety adjustments].

LCT SB109/SB338 background article here

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