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Ridesharing, voting bills sail through Legislature

SPRINGFIELD — Two thorny legislative issues — creating safety standards for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft and expanding voting opportunities statewide — got resolved Wednesday, with lawmakers approving bills to address both.

Ridesharing proved a bipartisan affair, with lawmakers voting by wide margins to subject ridesharing companies to minimum insurance requirements, driver background checks and other safety provisions under a compromise bill crafted with input from both the ridesharing and taxi industries.

Its passage staved off what would have been a high-stakes vote in which lawmakers would have needed to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto earlier this year of more stringent regulations on ridesharing providers. State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski, D-Riverside, led the negotiations on the compromise, with support from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The legislation requires ridesharing companies, drivers themselves or a combination of the two to maintain $1 million in death, personal injury and property damage insurance coverage while on their way to get passengers and during the time they transport them. It also includes background-check and licensing requirements for drivers and sets standards for ridesharing companies to provide service to “underserved” areas and to passengers who use wheelchairs.

The voting legislation proved more contentious in the House, where lawmakers voted along party lines to make the pilot program that allowed same-day voter registration in Illinois permanent. Besides allowing people to register and vote on the same day at polling places, the bill allows extended early voting, and makes it easier for students to vote at college campuses. It easily passed the Senate.

On Nov. 4, Chicago’s five same-day registration centers were so swamped, people were casting ballots even after most of the races had been called. Republicans seized on that as a sign that same-day registration isn’t ready to be implemented statewide.

Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, was among the Republicans blasting the bill, saying it should be renamed the “Voter Fraud Act of 2014.”

“Not one person on the minority side of the aisle has given us one thing about the bill they would change,” said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, in supporting the bill. “If you’re afraid of people voting, just stand up and say so.”

Gov. Pat Quinn’s office is reviewing both bills.