Regulations

GCLA Pushes For Action Against Illegal Operators

Martin Romjue
Posted on February 27, 2018
The GCLA delegation goes to the Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, led by GCLA executive director Tom Garrett (L) and GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook (R). (photos by Martin Romjue)
The GCLA delegation goes to the Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, led by GCLA executive director Tom Garrett (L) and GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook (R). (photos by Martin Romjue)

SACRAMENTO, CA — The Greater California Livery Association this year enjoyed a more favorable stance going into its annual lobbying event on Feb. 21 at the State Capitol.


Instead of asking for money or advocating a particular bill — actions pursued by nearly every group that lobbies government— the 265-member state trade group instead simply wants lawmakers to authorize spending money already raised and sitting in an account.

Freeing Up Funds
Charter party carriers in California have for years been paying fees that go into a Public Utilities Commission Transportation Reimbursement Account, which has the gastronomic sounding acronym of PUCTRA. So far, the PUCTRA Fund has amassed $20 million, with several of those millions coming directly from quarterly fees assessed on chauffeured transportation and private bus operators.

2018 GCLA board of directors: (front row L to R): Robert Gaskill, Perry Barin, Harry Dhillon (1st VP), Mo Garkani (Pres), Carlos Garcia, David Kinney (Treasurer); (back row L to R): Darren Croasdale, Selim Aslan, Alex Darbahani, and Chris Hundley
2018 GCLA board of directors: (front row L to R): Robert Gaskill, Perry Barin, Harry Dhillon (1st VP), Mo Garkani (Pres), Carlos Garcia, David Kinney (Treasurer); (back row L to R): Darren Croasdale, Selim Aslan, Alex Darbahani, and Chris Hundley
The GCLA would like this year’s state budget to authorize the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to begin spending those funds to boost the number of enforcement officers from eight to 20 statewide within the next year. It also supports full adoption of recommendations from a consultant that evaluated the CPUC last year on how it could run more efficiently. The General Assembly and State Senate will craft a budget during the next several months for a vote by June 30.

As a bonus to operators, the GCLA succeeded earlier this month in getting the CPUC to reduce those quarterly PUCTRA fees by 40%. Despite this substantial “tax” cut, the PUCTRA Fund is still estimated to grow until 2020. The GCLA also would like the CPUC to spend that money on improving its computer system, allowing operators to register and/or deactivate fleet vehicle permits and licenses online.

GCLA teams make sure they're well suited for a day of lobbying.
GCLA teams make sure they're well suited for a day of lobbying.
Industry Messengers

For the Day on the Hill event, about 25 operators and GCLA leaders from around the state divided up into rotating teams of two to four representatives who held scheduled visits throughout the day with Senators, Assembly Members, or their staff, with each lasting about 15-30 minutes. The visits were set up and coordinated by the GCLA’s long time lobbyist, Gregg Cook of Government Affairs Consulting, a 35-year veteran of Sacramento legislative politics.

GCLA board directors Perry Barin and Robert Gaskill make the obligatory photo opp in front of the Governor's Office.
GCLA board directors Perry Barin and Robert Gaskill make the obligatory photo opp in front of the Governor's Office.
Industry trade media outlets LCT Magazine and Chauffeur Driven were allowed to attend individual sessions on the condition that conversations are kept off the record. Overall, the participating operators adhered to communicating a united message across all sessions: They want to work with state officials for stronger enforcement of regulations that deter illegal or “gypsy” limousine services, and that protect public safety by ensuring a ground transportation market consisting of legal, licensed operators only. GCLA representatives circulated a list of media articles on recent criminal violations and behavior involving TNC drivers in the state.

The official full GCLA group photo in a committee hearing room at the State Capitol.
The official full GCLA group photo in a committee hearing room at the State Capitol.
“Uber vehicles are taxis; we’re not Uber,” said GCLA President Mo Garkani, the owner of Long Beach-based COTS Group/Continental Limousine, during a post-lobbying briefing. “We’re luxury transportation companies. We cannot compare ourselves to Uber. We will always have competition, but we shouldn’t have it from (illegal) operators who charge less...The GCLA is not asking for money, but how to spend money already there.”

During the briefing, Cook said even in a best case scenario, the CPUC cannot hire any additional officers until the budget is approved, positions are advertised, and candidates interviewed, hired, and trained. Added enforcement relief likely wouldn’t come until 2019.

GCLA Treasurer David Kinney and lobbyist Gregg Cook brief operators during a morning of regulatory presentations by state officials.
GCLA Treasurer David Kinney and lobbyist Gregg Cook brief operators during a morning of regulatory presentations by state officials.
Treasurer and past President David Kinney, owner of API Global in Sacramento, said during a Feb. 20 GCLA board meeting that illegal operators are causing a race to the bottom in pricing.

“If our industry is properly regulated with enforcement, then it will be safer,” Kinney said. “We’ll have fewer illegal operators and more business and revenue opportunities.” He called on operators statewide to report illegal operators to the California Highway Patrol division in their region. “We need to get the system to follow up and support more enforcement.”

Nick Zangani, head of the CPUC’s transportation enforcement branch, addresses the GCLA on pending regulatory developments.
Nick Zangani, head of the CPUC’s transportation enforcement branch, addresses the GCLA on pending regulatory developments.
New Rules In The Works

In a regulatory presentation at the Capitol Feb. 21, the GCLA contingent heard from Nick Zangani, head of the CPUC’s transportation enforcement branch, who offered the following updates:

  • Zangani has been leading efforts to reorganize and improve the enforcement division after several years of internal problems and budgeting challenges. The division needs 63 positions long-term. “I gather there is an appetite among the Legislature and Governor’s office to move forward,” he said. “It makes no sense to have illegal operators operating with impunity while you guys play by the book and follow the rules.”
  • The DMV will grant autonomous commercial vehicle testing permits starting April 1, which means Level 3 and higher driverless vehicles can be bought and sold on the automotive market in California and chartered by passengers. The CPUC would regulate driverless vehicles, said Zangani, who predicted more common usage of them within three years.
  • Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced legislation this month to accelerate the uptake of electrical and other zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) deployed by TNCs such as Uber and Lyft. Dubbed “E-CAr” (Electrify California Rideshare), Skinner’s legislation would set zero-emission targets for rides arranged through TNCs. To give a boost to TNC drivers who want to use California’s ZEV incentives, the bill would direct funds specifically for rebates for TNC drivers. E-CAr would require the CPUC, in consultation with the State Air Resources Board, to establish a set of “clean mile” targets for TNCs. These targets would specify the percentage of miles traveled by vehicles deployed by TNC platforms that must be “clean” (i.e., driven by zero-emission vehicles). The proposed targets would be 20% “clean miles” by 2020, 50% by 2023, and 100% by 2028.

Lobby team members hold a roundtable at the end of the day.
Lobby team members hold a roundtable at the end of the day.
Local Laws
During its Feb. 20 board meeting, GCLA leaders shared the following local regulatory updates:

  • GCLA 1st Vice President Harry Dhillon, owner of Ecko Transportation in San Jose, reported the group helped get the San Francisco International Airport trip fee lowered from $3.88 to $3. SFO also has made it easier for operators to appeal fines and responded more quickly with decisions.
  • Los Angeles International Airport officials have gradually lowered looping fees from $25,000 per fleet company to $3,000 to $10,000, depending on fleet size. The GCLA is also trying to get an exemption for luxury ground transportation operators to continue accessing terminal parking decks once a terminal train system is completed in the early 2020s carrying all passengers to ground transportation and rental car services outside of the main airport loop. Luxury operators are contending with transportation network companies (TNCs) for the exemption.
  • The GCLA board of directors held a regular board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to lay out plans for the next day and handle association business. The group was joined by 2nd VP Jeff Brodsly (center plaid shirt), also the CEO of Chosen Payments which was a lead sponsor of the lobbying event.
    The GCLA board of directors held a regular board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to lay out plans for the next day and handle association business. The group was joined by 2nd VP Jeff Brodsly (center plaid shirt), also the CEO of Chosen Payments which was a lead sponsor of the lobbying event.
    GCLA leaders are working with the city and county of Los Angeles governments to get laws raising the city minimum wage clarified. The question to be addressed is whether luxury fleet operations based outside of city limits would still have to pay applicable city minimum wages for the time their chauffeurs or employees are driving through, picking up, and dropping off clients within city limits. The Los Angeles city/county minimum wage is now $12 for large businesses and set to rise to $15 an hour by July 1, 2020. The state’s minimum wage now is $11 per hour, set to rise to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2022. Other cities and municipalities could set their own minimum wage laws as well, further complicating wage rates for companies conducting business in multiple locations.

 Coming Up
The next GCLA regional member meetings will be held:

  • Tuesday, April 10: LAX Marriott
  • Tuesday, April 17: Embassy Suites, SFO
  • Tuesday, April 24: Embassy Suites, Santa Ana
  • Tuesday, May 8: Pendry Hotel, San Diego

Related Topics: California operators, David Kinney, Greater California Livery Association, industry leaders, industry politics, legislation, limo associations, lobbying, Mo Garkani, passenger safety, regulatory enforcement, state regulations, TNCs, Uber

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