Taxi Bill Provokes Big Lobby Money

With hundreds of taxis operating in Denver and Boulder, Veolia Transportation Inc. heavily opposed local legislation that could have given the company more competition.

Government documents show the business spent a total of $19,500 in the March to pay lobbyists and influence a taxi regulation bill.

Veolia Transportation, formerly as Connex Transit Inc, also appears to operate a subsidiary accused of violating state lobbying laws regarding the same legislation. House Bill 1114 would have required the state’s Public Utilities Commission to issue an unlimited number of permits to cab companies who follow certain regulations, making it easier for new businesses to enter the market. Under the current system three companies dominate the industry and regulatory caps limit the number of taxis a company can operate.

The bill was later gutted by the House Transportation and Energy committee and changed to control the weekly rates cab companies charge their drivers instead dealing with permits.

Veolia Transportation, which has been described at one of North America’s largest private transportation providers, acquired the Colorado Cab Company (doing business as Yellow Cab ) in 2005, according to the company’s website.

Just before the legislation was changed by the House committee allegations began to surface that Yellow Cab was paying drivers to call lawmakers to encourage votes against the bill-an action that would most likely be illegal if true.

Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government, a non-profit and non-partisan group, has also asked Secretary of State Mike Coffman to conduct an immediate investigation of the accusations.

Public records show Veolia Transportation is also in a contract with the City of Denver to operate and sell transportation services to the public at Denver International Airport until May 2009.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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