Georgia legislators have filed a flurry of bills aimed at forcing ridesharing companies such as Uber to conduct more rigorous background checks on their drivers and raise liability insurance minimums for passengers.
Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said Wednesday that the House bills “would make it difficult to operate in the state.”
Republican Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell said Uber is paying thousands of Georgians to use their own cars as hybrid-taxis, without regulation. He said his goal is not to “run them out of the state” but to prevent Uber from ducking state and federal rules.
Bennett said Uber’s background checks are more thorough than those required for taxi and limo drivers. Powell disagreed.
Uber argues it’s a different kind of transportation provider, a high-tech hybrid that lets people hire drivers through a mobile app.
Bennett said Uber charges 30 percent to 50 percent less than taxis.
He said drivers like University of Georgia MBA student Nathan Stuck are not employees but independent business owners who must use their own cars. He said they have to submit to “rigorous background screening” that includes “a local, federal and state background check that looks at everything from sexual offender registry to violent crimes to Social Security traces and driving records.”
Powell, chairman of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said Uber’s background checks aren’t good enough. He said Uber drivers “are basically driving without insurance and are not paying taxes like everybody else.”
Stuck says he can earn $300 on a good day and $75 in a few hours.
“It gives people freedom,” Stuck said. “And you’re gone if you get a DUI or caught for reckless driving.”
The company said it provides $1 million in insurance, and that its workers provide an economic boon by paying taxes.
Bennett also said every driver’s vehicle must be no older than 10 years, and partners are fired it they run afoul of traffic laws.
Insurance bill sponsor Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna said he wants to “treat everybody the same if you are a for-hire driver.”
He said any legislation should not be “so onerous that it’s going to put them out of business.”
Uber and similar services have sparked controversy in some states, mainly with taxi and limo companies. In Las Vegas, Uber has been shut down.
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