HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Update 10:15 a.m. Wednesday
Vote break down:
Who says the government moves slowly? The parking boot bill had been stalled just a few days ago. Now because of a last minute maneuver it's on the fast track to becoming law.
Drivers get the boot when they park in a lot they're not supposed to be in, even if by mistake and only for a few seconds. The consequence is to pay a guy $160 cash on the spot. If you don't you won't get your car back. The practice has produced plenty of complaints.
"This activity of booting there is no cost structure so people could charge $166 or $366," said State Representative Ryan Yamane, (D) House Transportation Committee Chair. "Their car is locked up and almost extorted cash money."
Representative Yamane wrote a House Bill 1100 to cap the boot fee at $25. But it wasn't moving. He was waiting on legal advice. Now the State Attorney General says the boot is illegal. But the Honolulu Police Department told him it's a civil matter and won't get involved.
So lawmakers want to make it clear booting should be banned not even to be used by police.
"We're just hoping now to clarify law to our current understanding by our state Attorney General that this activity is not allowed," said Rep. Yamane. "We're hoping this will clear up the ambiguity."
But it was too late to pass the initial House Bill 1100. So lawmakers used a tactic to gut and stuff. They copy and pasted the boot bill into Senate Bill 1214, which was already further along, instead of waiting another year to start all over. Wednesday lawmakers unanimously approved the bill in a conference committee vote.
"We felt to delay it another year would put a number of people out in this limbo on what to do," said Rep. Yamane.
The owner of one of the boot companies said the tactic meant that his voice wasn't heard in the debate. "We've never been given the opportunity to speak. We've never been able to submit testimony. We've never been able to give our side of the story," said Sean Starn of Hawaii Boot Removal.
"People own these parking lots. They need protection as well as business owners," said Megan Kau, Hawaii Boot Removal Attorney. "I think (the parking boot industry) is a good business. It's needed in Hawaii especially with all the private pieces of land."
"Every person I work for wanted me to be in their parking lot," said Starn. "Every person tried every other method before they called me. People only call me when they have a serious parking problem."
Starn also said he's unfairly being targeted by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs over booting. "There's TV shows on it. Parking Wars. I mean this isn't a new thing. I didn't invent the boot."
The parking boot companies feel a full prohibition isn't fair, especially without a chance to fight it. Instead they say regulate the industry just like towing companies have rules.
"If there is regulation consumers will know because there will be a statute that they will be required to pay $75 to $100 for example if your car is booted," said Kau. "So they'll know when the guy or girl comes up that they're not trying to bully anybody they're just trying to do their job."
A job that could soon get the boot.
The Senate Bill 1214 now goes to a full vote to both the House and Senate next week. If it passes it then goes to the Governor's office for approval.
For more information about Senate Bill 1214 click here.