Senate advances bill to regulate transit apps like Lyft and Uber
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently announced that it would shut down smart-phone transit services like Lyft and uberX, which allow folks to hitch a ride with drivers of private cars, if the legislature didn’t create a regulatory framework for those companies.
A bi-partisan coalition of tech-loving legislators, including Democratic Senator Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge and Republican Senator Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch, came together to create those regulations, which turned out to be pretty complicated stuff. After much laying-over, their bill (SB 125) was brought to the floor for a first hearing.
Here’s a quick rundown of the regulations companies like Lyft and Uber, officially known as “Transit Network Companies” or TNCs, will be looking at:
– Riders’ receipts will include their driver’s first name and phone number so they can call if they’ve left any valuables in the car.
– Drivers aren’t allowed to work more than 8hrs in a 24hr period.
– Drivers will be notified that their private insurance stops when they agree to pick up a rider and their company’s insurance takes over. They’ll also be notified that their company’s insurance may not be the same (read: not as good) as their private plan.
– Riders will be notified that their private insurance also stops when they get in a TNC car and that for the duration of the ride they’re also covered by the company’s plan.
– All drivers will have to go through a criminal background check before starting work. If you’ve committed a felony in the last five years, had a DUI in the last seven years, or received more than three moving violations in three years, you can’t be a driver.
– TNCs will have to keep driver files on hand, just like cab or limo companies, with information like the background check and proof of private insurance.
– Vehicles have to be in good working order and undergo inspections.
– TNCs, unlike cabs or limos, can’t hover at the airport to pick people up.
– The PUC has the authority to take away TNC licenses or to issue fines for any violations.
It sounds like a lot, but the bill’s sponsors say it’s dramatically less regulation than cab and limo companies face. Even so, all that regulating will cost $215,000 a year — a fee Lyft and Uber have agreed to split so that it doesn’t come out of tax payers’ pockets.
Jahn lauded these companies for providing “an entirely new class of jobs.” She added that drivers are allowed to pick their own hours and on average work just 10 hrs a week for supplemental income. She cited a recent poll that found 72 percent of Coloradans support regulating Lyft and Uber so that they can continue to operate in the state.
Senator Owen Hill of Colorado Springs staunchly opposed the bill, saying it addressed the wrong problem altogether. He argued that the free market already regulates Lyft and Uber just fine; the real problem was PUC overreach. Hill said he was disappointed that so many staunch small=government Republicans supported the bill.
Obviously called-out, Harvey took the floor to say he agreed with all of Hill’s sentiments but that the PUC’s cease-and-desist letter is very real. He said making sure Coloradans are safe and insured while giving and taking rides is the legislature’s responsibility.
Harvey added that creating this new class of regulations for TNCs could give taxi and limo companies — who currently feel they face far too much regulation, including fare-setting — the chance to modernize and transition their companies to the new mode.
“This is a de-regulation bill in that way,” Harvey said.
Hill continued to disagree, offering two amendments even after the overall bill was approved on a voice vote. The first Hill amendment simply stated that the PUC would have no authority over TNCs at all. It failed with 18 no votes. Then Hill offered an amendment to delay the regulations until January 2015.
Harvey took the floor to say that if the legislature took that course, the PUC would absolutely shut down Lyft and Uber. Harvey added that Hill was ruining his birthday, which was yesterday. Hill’s second amendment also failed, this time with a robust 28 no votes.
SB 125 will come up for a final vote in the Senate next week. If it passes, Denver may well be a stage for transit app odes like this stylish number, set in New York City, from hipster sensation Reggie Watts:
House gives State Auditor bipartisan approval to checkout Colorado’s health exchange
The House passed HB 1257 on a near unanimous vote today, allowing state auditors to conduct a performance assessment of Colorado Connect for Health. After the bill passed, Rep. Amy Stephens — who carried the legislation to create the exchange and has drawn heat from her Republican colleagues ever since — added her name to the list of sponsors in support.
The measure will now move to the Senate.