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David and Goliath in the towing business

The common theme at the Colorado Capitol, in both the executive and legislative branches and across party lines, is that we want to be a business friendly state. We still have a long recovery out of this recession.

While the need to be business friendly is easy to identify, accomplishing that is another matter. Every governor and legislature in the country is saying the same thing, all hoping to retain existing businesses and add new businesses who might be looking to move their location.

It will be an interesting session as we see bills coming forward that claim to bring us to a better business climate, but, undoubtedly, will approach the same goal in very different ways.

Hearing from my constituents as to how proposed bills will impact their businesses is very important. Getting in touch with me quickly is also very important.

An example of a bill that passed last year, with no debate or points of contention at the time of voting that I was aware of, was the regular review bill for the public utilities commission, known as the PUC. Unfortunately, slid into the section related to the towing industry was an amendment that imposed a new bonding requirement for tow truck operators, who already carry liability insurance, often for coverage to $1 million.

Unfortunately, only after the bill had passed and been signed into law by the governor did I find out there was a serious problem because of this amendment.

This new cost of doing business with the added bonding requirement was sufficiently high enough to put many of the towing businesses in my district at risk of closing or laying off employees. I learned of this hardship when one of my constituents, a Bayfield tow truck operator, took the time to get in touch with me through an appropriately very unhappy email. I also heard from tow operators from Montrose to Cortez and, after word spread of a bill I’m now carrying, from Grand Junction to Mead.

As many of us have learned the hard way, when there’s an accident, either minor or major or a vehicle is off the road stuck in snow or mud, the tow truck operator is a critical part of the clean up, literally.

Since the bill was law by the time I heard about the harmful part, I could only attempt to change it this session, which I am doing. My bill will get rid of the bonding requirement for smaller counties and reduce the amount of the bond required in the urban areas. The PUC has been very responsive to the concerns raised by my constituents and me and has provided guidance and support in fixing this situation.

There’s opposition to my bill, ironically from within the ranks of the towing operators as the amendment to last year’s bill was proposed by some of the larger urban towing operations.

Debate on last year’s amendment and consideration of the impacts on towing operators across the state should have happened a year ago, but better late than never.

If we’re serious about being a business friendly state, we can start by fixing our mistakes and this would be a good start. The bill is set to be heard in the Senate transportation committee on Jan. 31.

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