Louisiana Senators Reject Statewide Rules for Uber, Lyft

By | May 10, 2018

Louisiana state lawmakers again have spurned efforts to enact statewide regulations governing ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Facing pushback from senators, House Speaker Taylor Barras pulled House Bill 749 from consideration on May 8 in a Senate judiciary committee after a nearly two-hour hearing. The move appears to end the effort this legislative session.

Barras, a New Iberia Republican, talked about trying to “see if we can continue to work” on reaching some compromise on the bill.

But Sen. Danny Martiny, the Kenner Republican who was the chief critic in the Senate committee, told Barras: “I don’t want to hear it again.” No other senator suggested they wanted it to return either.

“Thanks for the time,” Barras replied.

A similar proposal failed to gain traction last year with the same committee. The House earlier this session voted 97-1 for the measure.

Barras said 44 other states have statewide regulatory frameworks for Uber and Lyft. Barras said many areas of Louisiana don’t have access to cab service. He said the measure would standardize rules and make it easier to expand ride-hailing services to smaller cities.

“I think 90 percent of the state is anxiously waiting for this to take place,” Barras said.

Uber and Lyft operate in a handful of markets in Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, Lafayette and the greater New Orleans area.

Supporters, including drivers for Uber and Lyft, said the services offer improved transportation options to people without cars, jobs with flexible schedules and economic opportunity.

Victor Silvio, a Baton Rouge-based Uber and Lyft driver, said his son was killed in an accident caused by someone driving drunk. He said the ride-hailing services give people safe rides when they’ve had too much to drink.

“These services should be available everywhere in Louisiana, not just the biggest cities,” Silvio said.

Opponents objected to having different rules for Uber and Lyft than for taxi cab companies. They questioned why the measure would give regulatory oversight to the agriculture department, rather than the Public Service Commission, which oversees some trucking operations.

“Somebody’s got to convince me that this is more than a hybrid cab operation,” Martiny said.

He remained unconvinced and said it was unfair that cab companies must meet more regulatory hurdles.

“What we are doing here is we are basically saying, `You’re doing the same thing as those cab drivers, but they’ve got to do more,”‘ Martiny said.

Among the lengthy list of proposed regulations, the bill would establish application and background check requirements for drivers, mandate how trip records should be handled and audited and allow local governments to impose a per-trip fee of up to 1 percent on each ride.

The Louisiana Press Association raised concerns about confidentiality provisions in the bill that could be used to shield some records from the public, including information used in audits of the ride-hailing services.

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