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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If there is something right in my mind that Rhonda Storms can do, then it is this....

Ronda Storms says shut down Hillsborough's Public Transportation Commission
By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TAMPA — For years, state Sen. Ronda Storms has lamented the existence of the county's Public Transportation Commission.

This year, she hopes to get rid of it.

Storms, R-Valrico, wants other members of the Hillsborough County legislative delegation to back a bill eliminating the agency, which regulates taxis, limos, ambulances, tow trucks and other vehicles for hire.

"The PTC has been mired in scandal and controversy the last five or six years," she said. "They're like Jabba the Hutt. They've got tentacles everywhere. They keep expanding and it's costing the state time and money. Nobody else does this."

Over the years, the commission has been criticized for hiring an executive director that didn't meet job requirements, paying a lobbyist who had worked as a campaign consultant for the commission's board chairman, and forcing a free electric shuttle service out of business.

Mandated by state law, Hillsborough's Public Transportation Commission is the only organization of its kind in the state.

Storms said its most important functions, such as making sure vehicles for hire are safe and drivers aren't a danger to passengers, can be handled by the Hillsborough County staff.

"It makes good sense to me. It's what we stand for as Republicans. Less government, more efficiency, more streamlining. It's what the voters want," Storms said of her bill. "What is it that they're doing to justify the additional layer of government?"

Because any rule changes or questions about the commission are directed to the Legislature, its existence requires additional work by state employees, Storms said. "They will tell you our PTC causes nothing but problems."

And some of the rules they impose, she said, are ludicrous.

"They have a rule that says cabbies have to wear socks. I mean, please. Come on," she said.

Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, is co-sponsoring the bill.

"It's outlived its useful purpose," he said of the agency.

He said he decided to back the bill because last year he was irritated by resistance from the agency to setting up a system for challenging its rules.

"It's time to do a reorganization," Glorioso said. "It doesn't mean the industry won't be regulated. But it would be done by the county instead of a second independent agency."

Yellow Cab owner Louis Minardi said he doesn't understand why Storms would want to get rid of the organization.

"It's ridiculous," said.

The agency doesn't cost taxpayers any money because it's supported largely through fees paid by permit holders, he said.

"I don't see where there's going to be cost savings," he said. "It has been working very well."

But detractors say the PTC, which is made up of elected officials, is in the pocket of big transport companies who make contributions to political campaigns.

With the help of the commission, Yellow Cab this year shut down free electric vehicle services in and around downtown Tampa and launched its own free shuttle service.

"The PTC doesn't do anything good for anybody but the taxi companies," said Luis Lara, who operated an electric cart service called Joyride. "So what do I think about what Ms. Storms is doing? I think it's great."

John Dingfelder, who served on the PTC board when he was a Tampa City Council member, said Storms is on target.

"If it's just run by the administration it would take a lot of the politics out of it and it would be more consistent with the way it's done elsewhere in the state," he said.

Dingfelder was one of the transportation commission members who fought to keep the electric vehicles operating.

"Those weren't harming anybody and yet the existing companies fought them tooth and nail," he said. "Right now it's a very monopolistic set up with a lot of control by the folks who are already in business, and they've enjoyed that control for many years. I agree completely with Ronda Storms that it would be better off handled by administrators within the county."

Hillsborough County's legislative delegation will discuss Storms' bill and other local bills at 9 a.m. on Dec. 14 at the University of South Florida.

Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.


[Last modified: Dec 01, 2010 12:13 AM]
http://www.tampabay.com/news/busine...ughs-public-transportation-commission/1137334
 

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Yellow Cab owner Louis Minardi said he doesn't understand why Storms would want to get rid of the organization.
You know what I wish the media would stop doing? Inserting commentary into articles from people who have no credibility on the issue being discussed. He owns a cab company. We already know what his "opinion" will be.
 

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You know what I wish the media would stop doing? Inserting commentary into articles from people who have no credibility on the issue being discussed. He owns a cab company. We already know what his "opinion" will be.
I think it helps to point out why Storms and some of us want the whole HPTC dismantled. Of course Yellow Cab would be against this, HPTC is what is keeping the electric carts in Channelside and Harbour Island from running. Their ridiculous attitude towards any competition to Yellow Cab is pathetic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
:eek:hno:

Plan to abolish Hillsborough agency that regulates cabs, limos gets watered down
By Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Dec 14, 2010 03:04 PM


A bill to abolish the agency that regulates cabs and limousines in Hillsborough County survived a vote by the legislative delegation Tuesday but was substantially watered down in a way that will make it difficult to achieve its goal.

State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, was seeking to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, the subject of recurring controversies, and turn over its duties to the Hillsborough County Commission. But the bill faced opposition from county officials, who are concerned about being handed a new responsibility, as well as some members of the delegation.

So Storms twice amended her bill during the legislative delegation's annual meeting to ultimately require the County Commission and its three cities to vote in favor of doing away with the PTC and turning its duties over to the county. That bill passed unanimously, meaning it advances at least for further legislative consideration.

"Is a quarter of a loaf better than no loaf at all?" Storms asked rhetorically after the debate.

Dozens of cab and limo drivers turned out for the meeting, most of them to express concerns about the way they are treated by the PTC. They described a regulatory system that allows monopolies, exorbitant permitting and lease fees that require them to work long hours for little pay, and enforcement of rules that borders on harassment. If nothing else, Storms said, her effort has drawn attention to their plight.

"To hear the people come out today and talk, I think it was very compelling," she said.

Meanwhile, a bill that would have expanded the PTC's regulation of limousines and other cars for hire in Hillsborough was withdrawn Tuesday by its primary sponsors, Sen. Jim Norman and Rep. Shawn Harrison.

The proposal, which also would have allowed permit holders for cab service to transfer their permits to others, had come under fire from some operators of vehicles for hire. Many of them had rallied around Storms' plan to abolish the PTC.

While Norman was listed as a sponsor of the bill preserving the PTC and extending its reach, state Sen. Jack Latvala said he initially was supposed to be the sponsor in his chamber but he was out of town as the deadline to submit it approached.



[Last modified: Dec 14, 2010 03:04 PM]
http://www.tampabay.com/news/localg...hat-regulates-cabs-limos-gets-watered/1139965
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Meanwhile.....Norman looks in the other direction.....

Norman bill boosts taxi, limo companies and controversial agency
By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, December 12, 2010

TALLAHASSEE — A bill proposed by newly elected state Sen. Jim Norman would benefit taxi and limousine operators, one of his major campaign backers.

Critics say Norman's bill would consolidate power for companies that currently hold limousine and taxi permits, and perpetuate the public transportation agency that Sen. Ronda Storms wants to shut down.

Norman, a Republican from Carrollwood whose district includes north Tampa and much of eastern Pasco County, received about $5,000 in campaign contributions from the taxi and limousine industry in his bid for the state Senate. More than half of that came in after the August primary, when he was fighting a legal battle to stay on the November ballot.

Norman said he didn't consider the contributions when sponsoring the bill. "I didn't even speak with anyone from the cab industry," he said.

Paperwork filed with Hillsborough County lists Louis Betz, a lobbyist for the Tampa Taxi Coalition, as the contact for Norman's bill and says the legislation was prepared by Betz.

The bill seeks to reauthorize the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, something that has to happen every 10 years. The PTC, which regulates taxis, limousines, tow trucks, ambulances and other vehicles for hire, is the only organization of its kind in the state.

Betz said he didn't know why his name was listed in the bill paperwork. He said the PTC put his name on it.

After his election, Norman sought and received chairmanship of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, which in years past has warned the Public Transportation Commission not to arbitrarily expand its powers.

Norman's committee also reviews activities of the Division of Administrative Hearings, which considers appeals of decisions made by the PTC. That appeals process was added to the PTC rules earlier this year despite objections from the taxi cab industry.

In addition to extending the life of the PTC, Norman's bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-New Tampa, includes provisions requested by current permit holders. Those would require limousines to be luxury vehicles and set a cap on the number of limousine permits issued each year.

The bill also would allow permit holders to sell their permits and use them to finance business growth. It's all about free enterprise, Norman said.

"That would be capital for them to grow and move, but an individual owner could acquire a permit and operate," he said. "A single taxi guy could bid on or acquire a permit versus a company."

Limiting the number of permits, he said, means it would be easier to inspect limousines for safety purposes.

Supporters of the PTC say it ensures that Hillsborough's vehicles for hire are cleaner and safer than in other counties.

But Storms, a Valrico Republican, has filed a bill calling for elimination of the agency altogether, arguing it's an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that has been plagued by scandal.

Over the years, the commission has been criticized for hiring an executive director who didn't meet job requirements, paying a lobbyist who had worked as a campaign consultant for the commission's board chairman and forcing a free electric shuttle service out of business.

The agency is overseen by a seven-member board that includes city council members and county commissioners. Both Storms and Norman have served on the board.

Storms said abolishing the agency would cut costs for rent, staff salaries and other administrative functions. The agency's most important duties, such as making sure vehicles for hire are safe and drivers aren't a danger to passengers, can be handled by the Hillsborough County staff, she said.

But Edith Stewart, the county's public affairs administrator, said it's not clear getting rid of the PTC would save money. And she said Storms' bill would mean more work for county commissioners. "They already have a heavy load," she said.

Plus, eliminating the PTC board would mean city officials would no longer have a say in regulating vehicles for hire, because members of the city councils serve on the board.

The Hillsborough County Commission and Tampa City Council recently voted not to support Storms' proposal.

Norman says he's likely to back Storms' bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City.

"I have reservations like she does about the PTC," Norman said. "Hillsborough is one in 67 counties that actually has that. I believe there's all kinds of duplication in there."

If the county takes over regulating the industry, the new rules he's suggesting would still apply, he said.

Storms said she would be willing to support the changes contained in Norman's bill if the commission is eliminated.

"What I don't want to do is put myself in a situation where I'm going to be over here saying let's give the PTC these abilities but meanwhile I'm trying to abolish them," she said.

Storms' proposal has won praise from owners of small transport operators who say the agency is in the pocket of big companies who make contributions to political campaigns.

Walter Kozak, who runs a passenger transportation service in Hernando County, is highly critical of Norman's bill.

Requiring limousines to be luxury vehicles is unfair, he said. Under the current law, the passenger vans he operates fit the limousine definition.

"My customers are old people. They can't drive. It's forcing people on Social Security to use a five-star transportation service," he said. "What's next? Are you going to force them to eat in five-star steak houses?"

And the cap on limousine permits is just a way to keep out new carriers, he said.

"It's protecting the existing limo companies from competition," he said.

As for the sales of the permits, Luis Lara, whose electric shuttle service was shut down by the PTC and the cab companies earlier this year, is all for it.

"It would be a win for them as a moneymaker, but at least they're giving other companies the opportunity to get permits," he said. "Selling them is better than being able to hold them all."

Part of the justification for allowing sales of the permits is that it provides permit holders with a revenue stream and assists them in estate planning.

Yellow Cab owner Lou Minardi said that means it will be easier to pass his business on to his sons. He said it will also allow him to sell permits to his drivers.

"It gives them more stake in the company," he said.

Harrison, co-sponsor of Norman's bill, said he hasn't decided how he feels about Storms' legislation.

"I'm very eager to hear her argument and her reasoning for filing the bill," he said.

Hillsborough County's legislative delegation will discuss both bills and other local bills Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the University of South Florida.

Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.


[Last modified: Dec 11, 2010 09:59 PM]
http://www.tampabay.com/news/localg...mo-companies-and-controversial-agency/1139553
 

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Well, the first article you posted says that the bill that Norman was sponsoring was pulled, so I don't think we need to worry about extra $$$ flowing into his or his wife's pockets any time soon from the cab companies.

I would only allow the HPTC to stay if they fixed their policies and allowed the electric carts in Tampa. Screw the Yellow Cab's fears of competition and make the right decision, which is allowing the carts to travel in Tampa and maybe elsewhere down the road. If not, get rid of their a$$es!
 
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