Ride-sharing regulation advances in Senate

SHARE Ride-sharing regulation advances in Senate

SPRINGFIELD — Two bills advanced together out of committee Wednesday which would regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft statewide, much to the dismay of the app-based entrepreneurs involved.

The legislative couple — House Bill 4075 and its trailer House Bill 5331 — passed 11-2 and 13-2, respectively, in the Senate Executive Committee. 

“The bill creates regulations and requirements for commercial ride-sharing arrangements or transportation and personal-use vehicle prearranged through a dispatcher for a fee,” said Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz, D-Chicago, the bills’ chief Senate sponsor.

HB 4075 moves to the Senate floor while HB 5331, if it passes the full Senate, would go back to the House for final approval, a scenario that Munoz said he’s “100-percent” certain will happen.

In addition to mandating companies provide liability insurance, the combined effect of the bills would divide ride-sharing drivers into two tiers, based on the number of hours they work. 

Those who drive 36 hours or more in a two-week period would need to obtain a chauffer’s license, get distinctive registration plates and comply with state and local regulations for taxi services. This means servicing under-served areas, meeting wheelchair accessibility requirements, respecting pick-up and drop-off locations and adhering to vehicle age qualifications and inspections.

But in Chicago, that means the vehicle would need to be less than four years old, a requirement that Lyft representative Candace Taylor said would affect many Lyft drivers. She said these are the people who “depend on Lyft for economic opportunities” but might not have a new car. 

“When we say that there’s an impact to the company and to the community in Chicago, there’s a basis for it,” Taylor said. “There are people who are bing impacted and that’s part of the reason we have a problem with this legislation.”

Those who drive fewer than 36 hours would not need a chauffer license, but they would need to pass a full criminal background check.

Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said he felt divided on the ride-sharing issue and that he by no means wanted to “infringe upon their entrepreneurial spirit.”

“On the one hand, we have this tremendous innovation by these ride-share companies that’s provided a new service in a sense and transformed this entire industry; and that’s one of the things I think we want to foster and encourage,” Murphy said. “On the other hand, the case is made for a minimum reasonable foundation for regulatory safeguards, and that’s not without merit, as well.”

Lobbyist Mara Georges, who represents more than 6,800 taxicab owners, testified in favor of regulating the new app-based, ride-sharing companies, which came to Illinois about three years ago to compete with the taxi industry.

“It is a statewide public safety measure and it is necessary for the state,” Georges said. “These two bills put in place minimal statewide regulations and allow local governments to regulate in the area as long as such regulation is as strict or stricter.”

But Uber representative Andrew MacDonald said the safety concerns were unwarranted given the nature of the industry.

“As a company competing to win the business of riders and drivers every single day, safety will be and is a top priority of Uber,” MacDonald said. “It has to be. Otherwise, we would lose as a viable business in a competitive marketplace.” 

Nevertheless, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said it’s important for an industry to have some parameters.

“Why are we doing this and why are we doing this now? Well it’s brand new technology,” Radogno said. “Just because we’ve done it that way for a hundred years—this is new stuff and it seems to me it calls for a new solution.”

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