By Bob Katzen
House 142-15, (no Senate roll call) approved a new law that regulates Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). The new law establishes a new division within the Department of Public Utilities, funded by the companies themselves, to oversee the licensing of the companies and drivers, enforcing penalties and all other issues. A key provision requires drivers to pass two annual background checks — an internal one by the company and one by the state.
Under the new law, a driver’s record cannot contain any crimes of violence, sexual abuse, drunken driving, hit and run, felony robbery or felony fraud. In addition, anyone with one major traffic violation or four minor traffic violations within the past three years would be ineligible to drive.
The new law also requires TNCs to pay a tax of 20-cents per ride into a new Municipal Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund. The fund distributes some of the money to provide financial assistance to small businesses operating in the taxicab, livery or hackney industries and some to cities and towns to address the impact of TNCs on municipal roads, bridges and taxis.
Another provision prohibits surge pricing in weather emergencies and requires drivers to carry certain levels of auto insurance.
Supporters say these new regulations were compiled after extensive input from both the TNCs and taxi industries. They say the new law fosters growth and competition while protecting consumers.
Opponents are divided into two groups. Supporters of Uber and Lyft say the regulations hurt the consumer by limiting consumer choice and restricting competition. Supporters of the taxi industry say the regulations are minimal, do not level the playing field and will do nothing to help cab drivers who have seen much of their business taken away by these new companies.
(A “Yes” vote is for the new law. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes