Panel kills Sen. Roberts’ towing bill

DENVER – Senate Democrats killed a bill by Sen. Ellen Roberts that would have repealed a law requiring bonds for tow-truck operators Tuesday.

Roberts introduced Senate Bill 49 after hearing complaints from Four Corners towers that the $50,000 bond the Legislature enacted last year was unneeded and expensive.

But the bill turned into a nasty fight among Roberts, a tow-truck lobby group and towers who are not part of the lobby group.

Roberts said many towers cannot afford the bond, which will cost companies between $500 and $7,000, depending on their credit ratings.

“If you go ahead and kill my bill, it will go into place, and there will be people out of work,” she told the Senate Transportation Committee.

But the bill died on a 4-3 vote, with Democrats voting against it.

It was the lobby group, Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado, that pushed for the bond last year in order to get shady operators out of the business.

The bond is meant to cover unpaid fines to the Public Utilities Commission. Sometimes, towers with PUC fines will simply shut down their companies and reopen under different names.

But PUC data shows that only 14 fines statewide have gone unpaid in the last three years. Roberts criticized the “one-size-fits all” approach to requiring all towers to take out bonds because of the ill deeds of a few.

Her bill would have lowered the bond to $10,000 in the big Front Range counties and repealed the bond for smaller counties.

The PUC supported Roberts’ bill, and PUC officials testified they did not push for the bond and did not realize it would cause hardship for small towing companies.

Opponents of the bill said it would be unfair to repeal the bond after 75 percent of towing companies have already bought one.

“The one-size-fits-all thing to me is equity across the board,” said Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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