Nevada licenses OK for city cabbies
Despite an ordinance which speaks to the contrary, city taxi drivers will not be forced to hold California driver’s licenses.
An ordinance relating to taxi drivers passed a second reading Tuesday before the South Lake Tahoe City Council. It will take effect Dec. 17.
Although the ordinance states taxi drivers must hold a California license, council members said that portion won’t be enforced and will be amended at a future council meeting.
Taxi company operators, for the most part, said they supported the ordinance Tuesday, but they said many of their drivers live in Nevada and hold Nevada licenses.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Nevada residents can get a California license. However, according to Nevada Revised Statutes, Nevada residents must obtain a Nevada driver’s license within 30 days of moving to the state to comply with state law.
“It’s not practical and it may not be legal,” Mayor Hal Cole said at Tuesday’s meeting.
A.J. Robinson, manager of Sunshine Taxi, said some of his drivers live in Nevada and thus have Nevada driver’s licenses. He said he found the city’s policy ambiguous and pointed to several city police officers he said live in the Silver State and hold Nevada driver’s licenses only.
Police Cmdr., Brad Bennett, who will take over for departing Police and Fire Chief Dave Solaro Dec. 1, said about one-third of the South Lake Tahoe police force resides in Nevada.
Because it was a second reading of the ordinance, City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo advised the council not to amend it or they would likely box themselves into another reading.
Amendments to the ordinance are possible at future council meetings.
After a second reading, city ordinances take effect 30 days later.
DiCamillo said, should the council decide to change parts of the ordinance, law enforcement would be asked not to enforce those parts of the ordinance which will be changed.
Also as part of the ordinance, taxi drivers who have been convicted of any felony offense will be removed from their cabs effective Dec. 17.
Robinson said the concept was good, but 10 years (the length of time council members could consider amending the ordinance to state) and no leeway depending on the type of felony may be overkill.
“Should we punish this person whose paid their dues for the rest of their life?” Robinson asked, suggesting a five-year ban might be adequate.
“The felon has due process,” council member Margo Osti said, supporting the ordinance as written. “He can appeal to the city attorney and it’s up to her to make that determination.”
Charles Olin, of No. 1 Taxi, said he has a driver who was convicted of drunken driving in 1992. He said he didn’t think this driver should be taken out of his cab and also said it should be taken into consideration by the city whether DUIs were received in a personal car or while operating a taxi.
Council member Tom Davis said Thursday that he had contacted law enforcement and found out only DUIs involving injury or death are felonies in California.
Davis said he wouldn’t want someone in that position driving a taxi in South Lake Tahoe.
“The blanket felonies could be a problem,” Olin said. He said, even though drivers can appeal their removal, putting them out of a job for even a short period of time could cause serious financial harm due to their already decreased earning capacity.
Based on council discussion, amendments are possible which would allow some leeway on time requirements for non-felony DUIs, raise the minimum city cab-driving age from 18 to 21, allow Nevada-licensed drivers to drive taxis in the city, and get police scanners out of taxi dispatch offices.
Radio transmission scanners, similar to those found in police cars and newsrooms, which could be used in taxis to hear dispatch calls from other taxi companies, were banned from taxis also as part of the ordinance.
Those drivers and operators found guilty of violating portions of the ordinance will be fined $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third offense within a year.
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