The Idaho Transportation Board did what the Legislature couldn’t, and killed on Thursday a far-reaching rule requiring auto dealers to operate at least 20 hours a week.
The rule, of the board’s own making last year, also required dealers to operate at least four hours during the business week.
The new rule, rewritten Thursday, only requires that auto dealers declare their business hours to the state, which will allow ITD officials or customers a way to contact a dealer with questions.
Idaho House members approved the old rule earlier this year, but reversed course and tried to kill the regulation twice. They failed both attempts.
One attempt, a bill overwriting the regulation, died because Idaho Senate members thought the legislation would cause even more problems for auto dealers.
The other attempt, a simple reversal of the ITD board’s regulation, died in the final few days of the 2015 session after Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, declined to hear the measure in his Senate Transportation Committee.
The Legislature’s only auto dealer, Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, called the old rule “the worst thing I’d seen,” and said it was “terrible, terrible, terrible.”
House Transportation and Defense Committee Chair Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, lauded the move, but said the wording might not yet be complete.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s better,” Palmer said Thursday.
His hang up? The state’s rule still requires businesses to report their hours to ITD.
“We’re still restricting business,” he said. “I understand their reasoning, but they are still telling them to do certain things.”
Proponents testified the regulation would protect consumers from fly-by-night auto dealers, but critics like Palmer worried the rule would shutter small auto dealers.
Lawmakers will take up the regulation again in 2016 as part of the Legislature’s duty to review and check the executive branch of government. Palmer can’t promise smooth sailing for the rewrite.
“We’ll have everyone look at it and see if there’s a better way to do this,” he said. “There could be, but we don’t know that yet.”
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