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Germantown Cab Co v. Philadelphia Parking Authority

January 20, 2012

GERMANTOWN CAB CO., APPELLEE
v.
PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, APPELLANT
GERMANTOWN CAB CO., APPELLEE
v.
PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, APPELLANT
SAWINK, INC., APPELLEE
v.
PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, APPELLANT
GERMANTOWN CAB CO., APPELLEE
v.
PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered on 4/28/10 at No. 1252 CD 2009 reversing the order of the Philadelphia Parking Authority dated 6/11/09 at No. 08-12-19 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered on 4/28/10 at No. 1253 CD 2009 reversing the order of the Philadelphia Parking Authority dated 6/8/09 at No. 09-03-17 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered on 4/28/10 at No. 1139 CD 2009 reversing the order of the Philadelphia Parking Authority dated 4/21/09 at No. 09-02-25 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered on 4/28/10 at No. 1444 CD 2009 reversing the order of the Philadelphia Parking Authority dated 7/1/09 at No. 09-03-19

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Saylor

CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, ORIE MELVIN, JJ.

ARGUED: September 14, 2011

OPINION

In 2001, the Pennsylvania General Assembly divested the Mayor of Philadelphia of appointment authority for members of the governing body of the Philadelphia Parking Authority and placed such prerogative with the Governor of Pennsylvania. In 2004, the Legislature allocated to the Authority certain regional regulatory functions pertaining to taxi and limousine services. This Court has previously determined that the Parking Authority is a Commonwealth agency for purposes of such regulation. The Authority has maintained, nonetheless, that, in light of the primarily local focus of its regulatory concern, it should not be held to statutory rulemaking procedures and requirements generally applicable to other Commonwealth agencies, but which the Authority considers to be inapposite and burdensome as applied to it. In a unanimous, en banc decision, the Commonwealth Court disagreed, and, presently, we affirm.

I. Background

Appellees, Germantown Cab Company and Sawink, Inc., suffered fines and suspensions for violations of regulations promulgated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (the "Authority" or the "PPA"), including those pertaining to driver licensure, currency of vehicle inspection, and tire tread wear. The companies pursued declaratory relief and appellate remedies, claiming, solely, that the Authority's regulations were invalid, since they were not filed with the Legislative Reference Bureau in accordance with the Commonwealth Documents Law,*fn1 which is generally applicable to Commonwealth agencies.*fn2 The Authority took the position that its regulations were proper, albeit they were not promulgated in accordance with the CDL, in light of the Authority's unique local focus and consistent with provisions of its enabling legislation.*fn3

The Commonwealth Court ultimately sustained the appeals. See, e.g., Germantown Cab Co. v. PPA, 993 A.2d 933, 936 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010) (en banc).*fn4 The intermediate court's rationale was anchored on this Court's decision holding that the PPA "is a Commonwealth agency for the purposes of regulating taxicabs." Id. at 936 (quoting Blount, 600 Pa. at 289, 965 A.2d at 234); see also id. at 938. Thus, the court had little difficulty determining that the CDL's requirements imposed upon "an agency" --such as the requirement that an agency must give specified public notice of its intention to promulgate any administrative regulation, 45 P.S. §1201 -- pertained on their terms. See Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 936, 938.*fn5

Complementing this analysis, the Commonwealth Court reviewed the Authority's history, including: its creation upon the enactment of the 1947 Parking Authorities Law;*fn6 the reconstitution of the PPA's governing body in 2001 (resulting, inter alia, in the replacement of the complement of board members appointed by the Mayor of Philadelphia with a slate appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania), see 53 Pa.C.S. §5508.1; and the 2004 transfer -- under Act 94 -- of a portion of the responsibility to regulate regional taxicab and limousine services from the Public Utility Commission to the Authority, see 53 Pa.C.S., Ch. 57 (captioned, "Taxicabs and Limousines in First Class Cities").

In terms of taxicab and limousine services regulation, the Commonwealth Court explained that, prior to Act 94, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (the "PUC") bore this responsibility throughout the Commonwealth, with the specific measures pertaining to Philadelphia directed by the Medallion Act.*fn7 The court further observed that Act 94 supplanted the Medallion Act -- replacing it with Chapter 57 of the Parking Authorities Law, 53 Pa.C.S. §§5701-5745 -- and that, in June 2005, the Authority promulgated the regulations presently in issue.

The Commonwealth Court then undertook a broad review of the laws governing the promulgation of regulations by Commonwealth agencies, developing that agencies generally must comply not only with the CDL, but also with the Commonwealth Attorneys Act,*fn8 as well as the Regulatory Review Act.*fn9 The court noted that regulations promulgated in accordance with the requirements of these statutes have the force and effect of law; whereas, those not in compliance lack such effectiveness. See Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 937 (citing Snizaski v. WCAB (Rox Coal Co.), 586 Pa. 146, 163, 891 A.2d 1267, 1277-78 (2006), and Borough of Bedford v. DEP, 972 A.2d 53, 62 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009)); see also 45 P.S. §1208 ("An administrative regulation or change therein promulgated after the effective date of this act shall not be valid for any purpose until filed by the Legislative Reference Bureau[.]"). Focusing, in particular, upon the CDL, the intermediate court discussed the salutary purposes of the statute in terms of the promotion of public participation; the related requirement that an agency invite, accept, review, and consider written comments from the public, see id. §1202; the authority of agencies to conduct public hearings where appropriate, see id.; the requirement to obtain approval from the Attorney General as to legality, see id. §1205; and the ultimate obligation to deposit the text of the regulation with the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. See id. §§1205, 1207.

Against this backdrop, the Commonwealth Court rejected the Authority's arguments that, as "a unique hybrid agency with a local focus,"*fn10 it should be deemed exempt from statutory rulemaking procedures generally applicable to Commonwealth agencies. According to the court, the applicability of the CDL does not turn on an agency's particular focus; rather, it applies by terms to "all agencies, past, present and future, regardless of their mission." Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 941. While recognizing that there are exceptions, the intermediate court determined that, under Section 508 of the CDL, these must be express. See 45 Pa.C.S. §508 ( prescribing that "[n]o subsequent statute shall be held to supersede or modify the provisions of this part except to the extent that such statute shall do so expressly" (emphasis added)). The court explained that the General Assembly had provided such express exemptions in other statutes, for example, the Agricultural Development Act, see 3 P.S. §1310, and the Gaming Act, see 4 Pa.C.S. §1203(a)(1). Additionally, that court commented, "[i]n vain will one search the Parking Authorities Law for comparable language." Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 942; accord id. at 941 ("First, and foremost, the Parking Authorities Law does not expressly exempt the Authority from the Commonwealth Documents Law.").

The Commonwealth Court further differed with the Authority's position that the specificity requirement reposed in Section 508 of the CDL did not extend to the CDL's separate, unconsolidated portions reflecting some of the statute's core requirements. See supra note 1 (referencing both the Consolidated CDL and the Unconsolidated CDL). According to the court, the consolidated and unconsolidated portions of the CDL are inextricably linked, such that Section 508 has general application to the promulgation of all Commonwealth agency regulations. See Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 941 n.19.

The PPA also claimed that the terms of Act 94 and the Parking Authorities Law created an exemption, in any event. In the first instance, the Authority relied on the provision of Act 94 authorizing rulemaking on its part, as follows:

The authority may prescribe such rules and regulations as it deems necessary to govern the regulation of taxicabs within cities of the first class under this chapter. The authority has the powers set forth in this section notwithstanding any other provision or law or of the articles of incorporation of the authority.

Id. at 938-39 (quoting 53 Pa.C.S. §5722) (emphasis in original).*fn11 The Commonwealth Court, however, took a narrower view of this prescription, explaining:

The provision means just that, i.e., that regardless of what other statutes may state about the powers of any authority, including other parking authorities, the Philadelphia Parking Authority has the power to adopt regulations. Indeed, at oral argument, the Authority acknowledged that it had never adopted a regulation in its history, which began in 1950, until it promulgated its taxicab regulation. Section 5722 establishes the Authority's power to adopt taxicab regulations. It is silent about the procedures by which the Authority will exercise that power. Those procedures are set forth in the Commonwealth Documents Law, and they apply to all Commonwealth agencies when they exercise their statutory power to promulgate regulations.

Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 941 (emphasis in original).

Additionally, the Authority gleaned support for its position from its express exemption from the requirements of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act,*fn12 suggesting that an in pari materia construction should be applied to extend such exemption to the CDL. The Commonwealth Court, however, regarded the scope of the express exemption more narrowly, finding that it did not so much as extend to the entire Commonwealth Attorneys Act, let alone to the CDL. See Id. at 942.

The intermediate court also differed with the PPA's position that the advisory committee created under Act 94 comprised a substitute rulemaking structure. See 53 Pa.C.S. §5702(a) ("There is hereby established an advisory committee to be known as the City of the First Class Taxicab and Limousine Advisory Committee."). In this regard, the court observed that the statute was indefinite in terms of what must be submitted to this committee, and the committee's actions were "strictly advisory" in any event. Germantown Cab, 993 A.2d at 939 n.15 (quoting 53 Pa.C.S. §5702(a)); see also id. (remarking that "[t]he advisory committee is not a substitute for the role of the Attorney General and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission in the regulatory review process").

Turning to the Authority's claim that a regulatory void would occur were it deemed to lack the ability to implement regulations very quickly, the Commonwealth Court cited to Section 22(2) of Act 94, which provided that salient rules and regulations of the PUC would remain in effect until specifically amended, rescinded, or altered by the Authority. See 53 Pa.C.S. §5701 (Historical and Statutory Notes) (quoting Act 94, §22). The court reasoned that:

The Authority's concern about a regulatory void is valid as a matter of good government. However, that concern does not relieve the Court of the obligation to enforce the applicable statutes as they are written. In any case, the Authority has options. The Authority may be able to take enforcement actions for violation of Chapter 57, independent of any implementing regulation. It is not as clear to the Court, as it is to the Parking Authority, that the PUC's regulations have been nullified where the Authority has not yet adopted a valid regulation. In any case, the Commonwealth Documents Law allows an agency to promulgate a regulation on an emergency basis if [t]he agency for good cause finds . . . that the procedures ...


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