By Ken Presley
As you may have heard, U.S. Senator Patty Murray introduced language in an appropriations bill that prohibited the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) from enforcing the Charter Service Rule regarding King County Metro Transit in Seattle. While the Charter Service Rule remained unchanged, there was simply no one left to enforce the rule and King County Metro Transit promptly began offering charter service to the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Sounders events.
With King County Metro Transit violating the Charter Service Rule and nowhere for the bus and motorcoach industry to turn since the law prohibited FTA from enforcing the rule, the courts were the last resort.
Murray Amendment ruled unconstitutional
The United Motorcoach Association (UMA) and the American Bus Association filed separate and distinct lawsuits in the District of Columbia Federal Court. After oral arguments from both associations, U. S. Distract Court Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled on June 9th that the Murray Amendment is unconstitutional.
The court held that Sen. Patty Murray’s Amendment violates both the First Amendment right to petition the government and the Fifth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. The court rejected the government’s argument that the Murray Amendment was a valid economic regulation and issued an order requiring the FTA to enforce the charter rule against King County Metro immediately.
The Department of Justice under President Obama’s administration chose to file an appeal to overturn the decision and requested a stay. The appellate court granted an administrative stay that expired on July 8th and as of this writing we await the court’s decision regarding a continued stay. There will be vigorous arguments to follow regarding the judge’s decision and the constitutionality of the amendment. Regardless of the outcome of the court case great concerns still remain.
First and foremost, bus and motorcoach company owners should be aware that a number of legislators expressed interest in adding transit operations in their home districts to the amendment; thereby essentially exempting from the Charter Service Rule.
Second, to become law, the amendment was passed as part of a transportation spending bill that passed both Houses of Congress. To be sure, there were legislators that simply never heard from bus and motorcoach company owners and management. Be assured they are hearing from the transit authorities and the constituents who enjoy subsidized charters.
Charter Service Rule
Senator Murray claims she supports the private sector but has vowed to see legislation that permits transits to provide service to special events. We respectfully disagree with her contention of support for the private sector. Those who really support the private sector also support the Charter Service Rule as it currently stands, and they work tirelessly to see that private bus and motorcoach operators obtain the business and serve the public safely, efficiently and economically.
The question we pose today to every bus and motorcoach operator in the country is this: Do you know where your House Representative and U.S. Senators stand on protecting your company from unfair federally funded transits impeding on your business?
If not, we encourage you to write, fax or email your representatives today and find out. You may be surprised. This is not the time to procrastinate, be shy or assume someone else will take care of it. Elected representatives need and want to hear from their constituents.
As always, please let the United Motorcoach Association know how we can support your efforts.
Ken Presley is Vice President of Industry Relations of United Motorcoach Association, Alexandria, VA. [ www.uma.org ]