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Johnson calls for slowdown of Prince George's taxi reform bill

The Prince George's County Council presented a bill to reform the local taxi cab industry Tuesday after more than 100 taxi drivers showed up at county headquarters to support reform of what they say is a broken system -- the same day County Executive Jack B. Johnson sent a letter opposing the introduction of the bill.

The bill (see below) was introduced after months of work by a task force formed last year to look into complaints that the taxi system created an unfair work environment for drivers and that some cabs are breaking regulations.

In a letter dated Tuesday to Council Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga (see below), Johnson (D) asked that the bill not be introduced, partly because his staff had not had adequate time to review it.

"We both agree that the County's current taxicab legislation is outdated and a concerted and thorough review was welcomed," Johnson wrote. "I am deeply concerned that the Department of Environmental Resources has not conducted a full review and issued comments on proposed legislation and this agency is tasked with monitoring and enforcement of the taxicab industry."

From a strictly technical standpoint, the council did not defy Johnson, because it merely presented the bill Tuesday; and did not "introduce" it. Per procedure, a bill is first "presented" and referred to committee, where it can be amended. It is then "introduced" if voted out of committee, and a public hearing must be held before the council can take a vote on the measure.

In his letter, Johnson asked that the Council, "not introduce" the bill "until my office and the Department of Environmental Resources (DER) have reviewed and provided comments."

The legislation follows a series of demonstrations, including a strike, by local drivers who claim a small number of cab companies monopolize operating certificates and charge inordinate rates for them.

Among the changes the bill would make are: The inclusion of one active cab driver on the county's Taxicab Board; penalties for cabs that are not properly certified; mandates that drivers get regular physicals; the addition of 400 new operating certificates initially, followed by 75 each calendar year; and a cap on the percentage of certificates any one company can hold at 55 percent.

Abay Gedey, president of the Prince George's County Taxi Workers Alliance, said the bill was, "Okay. It's a beginning."

But Gedey added the drivers had wanted to see hundreds more certificates issued to foster more competition, as well as the inclusion of two drivers on the taxicab board.

"We are really disappointed by the county executive's opposition," Gedey added.


Johnson Taxi Letter

By Jonathan Mummolo  |  May 12, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County  | Tags: Jack B. Johnson, Prince George's County Maryland, Taxicab  
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