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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Predatory Patrol Towing Bills set to move in Senate Committee

Several bills addressing predatory patrol towing practices in Oregon are about to be scheduled for hearings and work sessions in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Senate Bill 116A is about to be printed as amended. The consensus amendments were the result of the discussions covering every section of the bill by the towing workgroup led by Eva Novick of the Office of the Attorney General.

Attorney General Hardy Myers and the Department of Justice have been working on regulating certain practices in the towing industry for the past two legislative sessions, and now have a bill that should sail through the Capitol.

It is likely that every legislator in the building and/or their staff have a personal bad towing experience to identify with, and they are certainly hearing from their constituents.

These may be the most popular bills in the building.

The fact that complaints about patrol towing incidents have come in from so many credible sources, describing thuglike behavior by patrol tow drivers, of being stranded or forced to go to an unsafe place, of getting the hardball treatment from surly patrol tow employees at every level, of outrageous fees more like ransom, and of wasting valuable police and court time at the public expense, that the picture is very clearly drawn.

The fact is that patrol towing is already illegal in many other states, including California and Washington, purely on the issue of safety, and the proponents of patrol towing will have to face these realities should they decide to argue against the legislation in a public hearing.

For example, a young woman who was forced to stand alone under the I-405 freeway at 2:00 in the morning, waiting 30 minutes for the Retriever Towing employee to show up and release her vehicle, which had been wrongfully towed, is looking forward to discussing the issue of safety before the Committee.

She usually appears before House and Senate committees to testify on behalf of the organizations she represents as a lobbyist, but this time it’s personal.

Another witness will be the young woman, a domestic violence caseworker making a home visit to a client at Hacienda CDCs Villa de Clara Vista apartments, who parked in a visitor space and was nevertheless towed within minutes clear across town.

The Retriever yard employee (at the same tow yard under the I-405 freeway) told her she wasn’t allowed to park in the visitor’s section because she was working, not visiting, and shook her down for $230.00.

To their credit, most towing companies do not do patrol towing, and they choose not to do it on principle. Many towers resent being tarred with the same brush as the patrol towers, understandably so, and those feelings have been transferred into the legislation, resulting in the consensus language of Senate Bill 116A.

Representatives of towing companies, insurers, property owners, AAA, and the offices of Senators Avel Gordly and Ryan Deckert, representing their constituents, participated in the SB116 towing workgroup.

In addition to SB116, Senator Gordly and Senator Deckert are working on legislation addressing patrol towing issues jointly, with six bills between them.

Their staff are currently working with Legislative Counsel to combine the bills into one or two vehicles, which will be heard in the Senate Commerce Committee before the April 30 deadline for Senate bills.

If you haven’t already sent in your predatory patrol towing horror story, now is the time to do it. Send it to your state Senator and Representative, and copy to the Members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

All legislator contact information and committee agendas are available online at www.leg.state.or.us

Make your voices heard.

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