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Packer flips on ‘terrible’ auto dealers hours mandate, brings fix for small businesses

Packer flips on ‘terrible’ auto dealers hours mandate, brings fix for small businesses

Dustin Hurst
February 12, 2015
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February 12, 2015

After supporting a rule mandating how long Idaho car dealers must remain open each week, Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, backtracked on the plan Thursday.

Packer, backed by Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, introduced legislation to give small businesses the option to remain open 20 hours each week or post their contact information on a structure on the company’s property.

The rule, written by the Idaho Transportation Department, requires dealers to open their doors at least 20 hours a week, a portion of which must come during regular work days. The rules also required dealers to report hours to the state agency.

The McCammon lawmaker said while she still wants to keep the 20-hour mandate, which won support from some big car dealers, she sees how the restriction could limit small businesses and startups.

“I support that rule because of consumer protection,” Packer told the House Transportation and Defense Committee Thursday. “I would still like to honor the concerns of the industry, as well as the consumer.”

Allowing small dealers to post phone numbers would allow consumers and regulators to set up face-to-face meetings should problems with auto sales arise, Packer said.

After IdahoReporter.com first exposed the mandate last week, its been a hot topic in the Gem State’s political discussion. Several commenters at Dave Oliveria’s Huckleberries Online blog criticized the mandate as overreach by government into business.

Political observer Randy Stapilus wrote Monday that the rules aren’t so bad because industry -- at least dealers with enough clout to have the government’s ear -- supported them. “Not that this is all bad,” Stapilus wrote. “Government should be responsive, and it should listen to the regulated as well as the rest of the public. It’s called the right of redress.”

But one high-profile member of the industry objected.

“I thought it was the worst thing I’d seen,” state Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, told IdahoReporter.com. “I thought it was a terrible, terrible, terrible rule.”

Sims is the only car dealer among Idaho’s 105 lawmakers. She wasn’t immediately available for comment Thursday after Packer pitched the fix.

The Idaho Transportation Department supports the fix.

The House panel, on a narrow vote last week, approved the rules. Late last month, the Senate Transportation Committee stripped the mandate from the rules.

Because the House committee gave full approval, lawmakers needed a bill to enact lasting changes. The panel introduced the legislation without opposition. It will receive another hearing within a week or so.

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