Agreement reached on tow-truck bill

DENVER – Legislators reached a truce Wednesday in the great Colorado tow-truck war of 2012.

About 50 towing companies lost their license to operate when they could not or would not pay for a $50,000 bond that the Legislature mandated last year.

Few legislators remember voting for the bond, which is supposed to cover the cost of unpaid fines. The Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado, a lobbying group for many tow companies, pushed for the bond as a way to crack down on people who flout the law.

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, tried to lower the bond after hearing complaints from local towers. But her bill died in the Senate Transportation Committee, so Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, introduced a new bill.

Coram’s bill, House Bill 1327, morphed several times until everyone settled on a new idea Wednesday that simultaneously ends the bond and steps up enforcement.

As passed Wednesday by the House Transportation Committee, the bill puts a $150 annual fee on towing companies for special licence plates.

Companies won’t be able to get a plate unless their insurance and paperwork is in order.

“We were able to reduce the expenditures, not grow government, get the job done and get people back to work,” Coram said.

The Public Utilities Commission already has inspectors on staff and does not plan to hire more, but the $150 fee will help pay the PUC’s enforcement costs.

The towers’ lobbying group – which previously had pushed to keep the $50,000 bond – agreed with the new version of the bill.

“We wanted the bonds clear out of the picture. We wanted them over with,” said Chuck Ford, a lobbyist for the Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado.

Rep. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, cast the lone “no” vote. He said he supported an earlier version of the bill and thanked the tow truck lobby group.

“I appreciate an industry that comes in and tells you they’re trying to elevate their game. They want to get rid of the bad actors, and they’re willing to pay for it,” Jones said.

In March, PUC staffers said the bond requirement could cost more than 200 towing companies their licenses to operate.

On Wednesday, PUC official Ron Jack said the true number of companies facing action for not carrying a bond is about 50.

The bill still needs several more approvals from committees and the full House and Senate.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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