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Senate sends Quinn ride-sharing crackdown legislation

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate Thursday sent Gov. Pat Quinn legislation pushed by the clout-heavy taxicab industry that would impose new regulations on ride-sharing companies.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz, D-Chicago, passed 46-8 despite GOP concerns the new rules would stifle companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that have sprouted up and bill themselves as a less-expensive, more reliable alternative to taxis.

“We’re not trying to stop technology, and everyone that uses it,” Munoz said. “The only thing we want to do is make it safer, regulate it fairly for everyone in the industry. That’s the intent of this bill.”

Under the plan, ride-sharing drivers who operate more than 18 hours per week would need to secure chauffeur’s licenses, obtain commercial liability insurance, undergo criminal background checks and submit their vehicles to safety inspections, just as cabs now do.

“When you put the lives of your loved ones in someone else’s hands, like a ride-sharing vehicle, you should know that these are reputable, responsible, reliable individuals,” said Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, who voted for the plan.

“We expect that of postal workers who drop off the mail in your mailboxes at your house to get drug tested and background checks. We demand that of bus drivers to get drug tested and background checks. We demand that of operators of trains. We demand that of pilots who operate airplanes. We even demand that of carnival-ride operators to get drug tested and background checks,” Sandoval said.

But Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, argued the changes would drive up costs for riders using an industry he praised for its “entrepreneurial spirit.”

“It regulates too far, and I think it sends a message innovation will be kneecapped in Illinois if you compete against a powerful monopoly,” Murphy said. “That’s not the kind of message we want to send right now.”

After the vote, Uber condemned the outcome, saying the legislation would “hurt consumers and limit transportation options across the state.”

“The bill protects taxi special interests who are working to stifle competition and protect their monopoly,” the company said in a prepared statement. “HB4075 damages consumer choice, safety, economic development, and the ability of municipalities to regulate transportation services in a way that meets their residents’ needs. We will continue to work with state and city officials to ensure UberX has a permanent home in Illinois for consumers to benefit from competition and much needed transportation options.”

Companion legislation, which gave municipalities the power to regulate ride-sharing fares and contained other tweaks to the main bill now bound for Quinn, also passed the Senate Thursday and moves back to the House.