SAMANTHA GROSS,Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg put a planned bill signing on hold Wednesday after hearing from critics who object to legislation that would strengthen penalties against cabbies who knowingly work with sex traffickers.
After opponents decried the measure at a public hearing, Bloomberg said he'd take more time to consider it and would decide by Friday.
The bill, already approved by the City Council, would impose a $10,000 fine on drivers who are convicted of a felony related to sex trafficking. The cabbies would also lose their Taxi and Limousine Commission licenses. The measure targets drivers who keep women captive in their cars and profit from prostitution rings.
But some opponents are worried the bill could make cabbies afraid to pick up passengers who are provocatively dressed late at night — leaving them with no choice but to walk alone on deserted streets. Iman Hajismaiel, general manager of Club Phuket in Upper Manhattan, says many women come to her club to dance and have fun but shouldn't be placed in danger, regardless of what they choose to wear.
"That's their style. Who are we to judge? And who is the cabbie to judge, at 5 a.m., whether this is a prostitute or not?" she said.
But City Council Transportation Committee Chairman James Vacca says the bill — which would require that all taxi drivers watch a training video to help them identify and help victims — forbids cabbies from discriminating against riders based on their appearance.
"The bill is very specific. This took months of negotiation," he said. "We did not want anyone singled out, and it does not single anyone out based on what they look like."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn criticized the mayor's decision to delay. "If he fails to sign this bill, it will be more than a misguided step; it will be an unconscionable misstep," she said in a statement.
On Friday, Bloomberg said in his weekly appearance on WOR radio that he wasn't sure if the bill was a good idea.
"If I were a young lady and I dressed in a sporty way ... and there's nothing wrong with that — maybe it's not appropriate to go to the workplace, but at night sometimes sure, why not — I would not want somebody thinking that I'm a prostitute," he said.
It's not the first time that the mayor has postponed a bill signing at the last minute. In one instance, he reversed course at the last minute on a measure to limit the pedicab industry. He ultimately vetoed that bill, but his decision was overturned by the City Council.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.