An eleventh-hour bill in Maryland addressing the regulation of rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft is being hailed by stakeholders on both sides of the meter.
In the waning hours of the Maryland legislative session on April 13, Baltimore Sen. Bill Ferguson’s measure establishing the rules for “transportation network services” to legally operate sped through both chambers, propelled by bipartisan cooperation and support from taxi services.
The bill requires background checks for drivers and addresses insurance minimums for rideshare companies, which rely on cellphone GPS and messaging to set up passenger rides.
The legislation also gives oversight to the state’s Public Service Commission.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has not yet signed the bill. An administration spokeswoman said he is giving it “one last look.”
In a Twitter post, Ferguson said it was a “good day for ridesharing & innovation in MD.”
Lyft said in a statement that the bill secures a future for “affordable, reliable rides in Maryland.”
Taylor Bennett, spokesman for Uber, called the legislation a huge win.
Reliability and responsibility have been at the center of debate in state legislatures across the country, as they grapple with the issue of rideshares. While the companies and happy customers tout affordable fairs and dependable service, critics point to unfair surge pricing and the perceived gray area in which the companies operate.
Virginia passed its version of a regulatory bill earlier this year, requiring rideshare companies to only employ drivers over the age of 21, have insurance coverage up to $1 million, and practice a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use.
In October, the D.C. Council approved new rules that called for $1 million in accident insurance for rideshare operators.
Navin Dass, general manager for Yellow and Checker Cab Company, the largest taxicab company in Baltimore, said the level playing field that Ferguson’s bill creates is “good for us, it’s good for the consumers.”
“From the very beginning to now, we didn’t want them out of the market,” he said of rideshare businesses. “We just wanted to make sure if you’re playing the field … you wear the uniform.”
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