After close to a decade of red tape and discussion, Rockland officials say the government is moving closer to adopting a commission to regulate taxis and limousines. The Rockland Legislature and County Executive’s Office are finishing up a final proposal for an eventual public hearing and vote, possibly in several months. The proposal remains in draft form, now with the Rockland County Attorney’s Office, officials said.
Such a countywide commission, on paper, would license cab companies and drivers, conduct background checks, ensure all companies and drivers are insured, and oversee fines, if necessary.
Rockland cabs could then take passengers into Westchester County and to the county airport without fear of being ticketed on licensing issues. Officials said that without a TLC, Rockland-based cabs do not have reciprocity with other counties – like Westchester and Nassau – which leads to summonses.
Legislator Jay Hood, D-Haverstraw, one of the supporters of a Rockland TLC, said in August that some issues have not been resolved, including some jurisdictional questions involving the village licensing. He said the villages will be given a choice to defer to the county commission.
Hood added that the county can’t regulate app-based car services like Uber and Lyft, as that job falls to the state Division of Motor Vehicles, since a statewide law was recently passed.
Hood said Rockland’s Department of Weights and Measures, also known as consumer protection, would regulate the industry, while the Sheriff’s Office would do the background checks.
“I’d like to see the cab companies held accountable as well as the drivers,” Hood said. “I don’t want companies to claim, ‘I didn’t know my driver didn’t have a license.’ The car owner, as well, should know who is driving his car.”
Hood said fines could range from $150 to $250 for an offense.
Hood said creation of the commission has been delayed since being proposed under the administration of County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, who served for 20 years until 2014. He said the county waited for state approval for seven or eight years and, at one point, when such approval came, then-Gov. George Pataki vetoed the permission. He said a sticking point came when Spring Valley wanted to continue regulating its cab drivers and companies.
The villages can choose to let cabs and limousines pay two fees – one to the county and one to the village, if they choose, Hood said.
“Anyone with a taxi law can continue to regulate,” Hood said if a TLC gets created. “The companies would be paying a second fee to the county to pick up fares outside their villages.”
Haverstraw Mayor Michael Kohut said he will support the village giving up licensing cabs to a county commission. He said the loss of about $15,000 yearly will not hurt the village’s $9 million budget. He also said cab drivers are getting hit with thousands of dollars in fines for working in Westchester.
“We’ve been pushing for this for years,” Kohut said. “It doesn’t make much sense to have to license every community you are in. Quite honestly, the county can do a better job policing as far as getting permits and safety.”
Spring Valley officials have not decided what to do. Mayor Demeza Delhomme said he’s aware of the proposed commission but has not seen a plan.
County Executive Ed Day, a legislator from Clarkstown before being elected executive, said the call for a commission is not breaking new ground. He said the county has been working on the concept for several years, adding that his administration provided a final draft of proposed legislation more than a year ago and the Legislature recently returned the proposal with changes.
“We are eager to create legislation that protects the public from unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified drivers,” Day said in a statement. “We remain hopeful that we can work with the Legislature to create meaningful legislation in a timely manner.”