Changes in taxi laws win court’s OK

The city can enforce all new taxi cab laws it introduced recently, following a decision Tuesday by an appeals court.

A panel of 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled in favor of the city, agreeing that a certificate of public necessity and convenience, the document required to legally operate a taxi, is a privilege, not a right.

Several taxi cab companies and CPNC holders filed suit in May in an effort to block a package of industry changes the City Council introduced in April at the administration’s urging. The city has said the changes, including age limits on vehicles, requirements for credit card machines and surveillance cameras, were designed to improve passenger experiences and driver safety.

A federal district judge in August lifted a restraining order that prevented the city from implementing most of the changes. At the same time, though, Judge Eldon Fallon issued an injunction that said the city could not declare CPNCs a privilege. That order also made the sale or transfer of CPNC’s discretionary instead of automatic.

If CPNC holders failed to meet several new requirements to renew the document, the city could revoke it, leaving the holder unable to recoup money he or she invested into it. The new law also stopped elderly or disabled CPNC holders from being able to pass them on to family members who could pass the requirements, the plaintiffs argued. That practice has been in place for decades.

The suit argued that the new rules would “destroy millions of dollars of investment” and amounted to “governmental taking without just compensation.”

The panel of appeal judges said the drivers did not show they were entitled to an injunction they sought that would have blocked the city from enforcing the new rules, allowing the city to consider CPNC’s a privilege.

In a prepared statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday’s ruling was “consistent with common sense” and the needs of the taxi industry.

“This is a win for the residents, businesses and visitors of New Orleans, who deserve clean, reliable and accessible taxicab service,” Landrieu said.