Georgia Senate Committee Approves Ridesharing Bill

A bill that would give Uber and other ride-sharing services clear sailing to keep operating in Georgia on passed the state Senate’s powerful Science and Technology Committee late last week.

The bill by Republican Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell passed in a split vote. It could be headed for a vote soon on the Senate floor, but still faces hurdles.

The legislation partly deregulates taxi and limousine companies, but Powell said it also requires ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to conduct background checks on drivers, identify vehicles with tags of some sort and pay sales taxes or a per-car fee to the Georgia department of Revenue.

Another House bill by Republican Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna, pending in a Senate committee, would require ride-sharing companies to carry the same level of commercial liability insurance that’s required of cabs and limousines.

Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said Golick’s HB 190 would make it difficult for the company to operate in the state.

“We offer a million dollars for every trip, primary insurance,” he said. “It’s liability coverage. That is exponentially greater than what taxis offer.”

But Golick said that “if a $40 billion company like Uber doesn’t do business in a top 10 state like Georgia, it won’t be because of HB 190. The bottom line is that right now there is nothing in Georgia law that requires these companies to carry insurance – they don’t want to be required to do so – and apparently Uber is willing to say and do anything to avoid having that responsibility under Georgia law.

“It’s sad that a company like Uber would put profits over public safety, especially in light of the fact that our insurance commissioner – whose job it is to protect Georgia consumers – has endorsed HB 190 given the potential insurance coverage gap that currently exists.”

Golick said Georgia is not alone “in tackling this insurance-gap issue.” He said similar legislation has been passed or is pending in more than 20 states, “so there is broad national recognition for the need of this public safety-related legislation.”