Towing firms may avoid costly bonds
DENVER — Towing companies won’t have to purchase expensive bonds to stay in business, but they will have to pay an annual $150 fee under a compromise approved in a Senate committee Thursday.
The compromise for House Bill 1327 is designed to replace a requirement that towing companies post $50,000 bonds, which independent towers said threatened to put several, particularly those in rural areas, out of business.
Had the bonding rule approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that oversees the towing industry gone into place, it could have eliminated hundreds of jobs across the state, said Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.
“If this bill does not pass, we will not have a tow-truck operator from Ouray to Durango,” the Grand Junction Republican said.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important this legislation is to deal with a problem for our state, especially in the rural areas.”
King introduced the bill with Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, after a bill that Coram and Roberts introduced earlier this session to lower the fine to $10,000 and exempt it in rural counties died in the Senate Transportation Committee.
The issue began when the utilities commission imposed the bond to cover fines for various violations that some towing companies were not paying.
Some towers would get around the fine by renaming their companies and applying for new licenses, said Chuck Ford, lobbyist for the Towing & Recovery Professionals of Colorado.
Under the compromise bill, the commission would use the annual fee to pay for inspectors of new license applications, who would determine if those applicants actually are new towers or someone who is just trying to avoid a fine.
“They go right back to the original source, the PUC, and say, ‘I want another permit,’ and they’ve got a different name,” Ford said. “(The PUC doesn’t) have time under the current situation to find out if these folks are the same people who just dodged a $208,000 fine.”
The bill heads to the Senate Finance Committee for more discussion.
The Colorado Senate gave preliminary approval to a measure Thursday to remove the $5,000 cap that counties can charge a private property owner in reimbursement for the control of pests and noxious weeds.
Senate Bill 169, which still requires a final Senate vote before it can head to the House, allows counties to charge whatever they like to recover costs of pest or weed control that a private landowner has declined to do.
While the measure had wide support, some lawmakers questioned whether it was wise to have no cap at all.
“The cap was wrong the way it was put in arbitrarily,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray. “It doesn’t really reference the size of the pest problem. You could be treating a pest problem on a 1,000 acres, and $5,000 might not go very far.”
Instead, Brophy tried to set a cap of 15 percent of the assessed value of the property, but that effort failed.
Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, said she too agreed some cap would be needed, but hoped the House would address the matter when it gets the bill next week.