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General Assembly Rejects McAuliffe Towing Bill Amendment

The Virginia House of Delegates last week voted down Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) plan to gut a towing bill that targets Northern Virginia. The bill now goes back to McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s amendment to HB 1960 would have removed language preventing jurisdictions in Northern Virginia from requiring a “second signature” to authorize a tow from a commercial property. The second signature comes at the moment of the tow; the first signature is the contract that authorizes a company to tow from a particular property.

The bill would affect all of Northern Virginia, known as Planning District 8. It overrides regulations passed by the Arlington County Board last December to amend the county’s towing ordinance.

Included in the County Board’s package was a controversial provision requiring businesses to authorize individual tows. That provision brought objections from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and others in the business community.

McAuliffe had tried to lessen the impact of the General Assembly’s towing bill by adding suggested language requiring the second signature. But Fairfax and Prince William counties Del. Timothy Hugo (R-40) said at the House’s reconvened session April 5 that requiring a second signature is not practical.

Hugo, the bill’s chief patron, said needing a second signature would prevent the likes of churches, restaurants and apartment complexes from quickly removing illegally parked cars.

“What this amendment would allow, is it would require every time the tower wants to tow that illegally parked car, they’ve got to find the preacher, the restaurant manager, the president of the homeowners’ association, they’ve got to find a second signature for that tow,” Hugo said during the debate.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48), a member of Arlington’s House delegation, said it was unfair that Northern Virginia be singled out in the bill while the likes of Stafford County and Virginia Beach can require a second signature.

“The question here is why should we single out one locality or one portion of the state to be treated differently from every other portion of the state,” Sullivan said. “There’s no justification that I’ve heard for doing so.”

Debate brought some testy exchanges on the House floor during the one-day session where lawmakers debated McAuliffe’s vetoes and proposed amendments to other passed legislation. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) echoed Sullivan’s sentiment, asking why the bill only applies to Northern Virginia if it “is such a good idea,” and why it thus could not apply statewide.

“If the gentleman wants to put that bill in next year, he’s more than welcome to do so,” Hugo said in response.

Then Del. Mark Levine (D-45) questioned why Virginia Beach is able to keep prohibiting predatory towing but Arlington County cannot, and he said that McAuliffe’s amendment would make one towing standard apply across the commonwealth.

Hugo said the amendment would only affect Northern Virginia, then House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28) ended debate.

“How petty that Republicans would try to pass a law overruling a predatory towing local ordinance in Democratic Northern Virginia while allowing the exact same predatory-towing ordinance in Republican Virginia Beach,” Levine wrote in an email to supporters.

The House rejected McAuliffe’s amendment by a 67-33 vote. The governor now must either sign or veto the bill.

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