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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Committee Votes Down WV Towing Legislation

Here's the story from West Virginia Public Broadcasting:
March 17, 2009 · The Senate bill addressed disagreements between towing companies and the Public Service Commission When Senate Bill 309 was brought up, it proved contentious. Representatives from both the Public Service Commission and towing companies testified. The towing companies felt they all were having to answer for one rogue toweing company.
The bill adds four provisions to the existing law. Towing companies must have authorization
from the owner of the property where the vehicle is towed from, and the company must contact local law enforcement and inform them as to the vehicle’s location. Also, the bill would require towing companies to accept credit and debit cards, and not to charge for the first 24-hours of storage.

But this legislation is in response to a problem with one company in Morgantown, and the
other towing representatives didn’t think it was fair to impose blanket restrictions on the industry throughout the state.

On Friday, the committee seemed close to passing the legislation, but then heard from Michael
Pifer, past-president of the
West Virginia Towing Association.

“So, this situation in Morgantown is going to penalize every tower in the state of West Virginia and make it easier for the Public Service Commission that had one hearing on one towing
company and never did anything to them,” Pifer said. There is another reason the industry is opposed to a bill: the towing association has been working with the Public Service Commission to address the same problems for two years. They reached a settlement in December.

Darrell Summers is the current president of the West Virginia Towing Association.

“The reason we were opposed to this bill is because we’ve been working two years with the
Public Service Commission, and in December we had a settlement that is supposed to be finalized by March 26, which addresses every problem they had with this bill.” Though the committee asked the Public Service Commission whether the legislation would give them more authority over towing companies, representatives didn’t seem to be able to answer the question. Ultimately, the committee voted to defeat the bill.

Senator John Unger is the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“But we also need to address that problem in Morgantown and what I think some of the members of my committee were concerned with, was we were implementing a type of regime on the overall industry throughout the state for a problem that’s occurring in only one part of the state,” Unger said.

“And the question is do we have to do that in order to solve that problem that’s only in Morgantown and not in any other place?”

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