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Towing bills from Dels. Lopez and McClure head to Va. Senate after receiving near-unanimous House support

A ‘towing enforced’ sign in Clarendon (file photo)

Two anti-predatory towing bills from Arlington lawmakers have cleared the House of Delegates and will now head to the state Senate for discussion.

Seven years ago, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed a bill preventing Northern Virginia jurisdictions from requiring real-time authorization of tows by the requesting business or parking lot during business hours.

The law overrode county regulations requiring this “second signature,” which was set to go into effect that summer.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) aims to reverse this with his Anti-Predatory Towing Act, HB 959, which cleared the House of Delegates on Monday in a bipartisan vote of 98-2.

If the Senate follows suit and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) signs it into law, Arlington and its Northern Virginia neighbors would once more be able to require a second signature authorizing the tow, an authority other Virginia jurisdictions still enjoy.

The bill also lets localities require towing operators to take and keep photos or other evidence substantiating why the vehicle was removed, which Lopez says would curtail the practice of “spotting” that enables predatory “smash & grab” practices.

It also changes the penalty for certain trespass towing offenses in Northern Virginia from $150 per violation paid to a state literary fund to 10 times the total amount charged for removal, towing and storage — to be paid to the victim.

“Simply put, Northern Virginia will no longer be explicitly prevented in the Virginia Code from having the same towing ordinances that are normal practice in the rest of the Commonwealth,” Lopez said in a statement. “These bills are the result of extensive work with advocates and communities to address predatory towing practices, which continue to plague residents in Northern Virginia. And I’m proud that they both won such broad, bipartisan support.”

The House also passed Del. Adele McClure’s (D) accompanying bill, HB 1287, 93-5, with one abstention.

HB 1287 clarifies existing powers Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties and the city of Alexandria have regarding towing.

Those localities are already allowed to require towing companies to obtain a permit to tow to a storage or release location outside of the locality. Her bill makes it clear that the provision does not restrict those localities from requiring permits for towing within the boundaries of the locality, as well.

In a statement, McClure asserted that towing ordinances are “a local issue.”

We need to make sure that areas in Northern Virginia have the same authority as every other community to pass ordinances around permitting towers. This is a local issue that must be solved at the local level, but it requires action in the General Assembly to empower our localities. Arlington has already taken steps to enact this change once it becomes law, and I am proud to champion this bill to meet that need and respond to our local leaders. As these bills move to the Senate for consideration, I am proud to continue working with Delegate Lopez and Arlington County to achieve our mutual goal of curbing predatory towing.

This is not Lopez’s first crack at towing legislation.

He supported a bill in 2022, which failed, that would have given residents and localities more ability to protect themselves against alleged bad-actor towing companies. The bill responded to public scrutiny of Ballston-based Advanced Towing, which is often accused of predatory towing practices, though such accusations fizzled in court after the previous Virginia Attorney General sued the company.

Lopez and state Sen. Barbara Favola reprised the bill in 2023 but it also did not pass. That bill also would have resulted in heftier civil penalties for predatory towing than the current $150 fine.

Tackling predatory towing was a priority of the Arlington County Board in both the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

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