Legislation allowing California commuters to carpool using services like Uber and Lyft could be finished for the year after a committee hit the brakes ahead of an approaching deadline.
The chair of the committee, who has worked in the taxi industry, said he considered the bill a “piecemeal” approach to regulating ridesharing companies.
Fast-growing companies that allow amateur drivers to transport people in their personal cars for a fee have caught the attention of lawmakers and put the industry on the defensive in Sacramento, where it has fought bills to bolster insurance requirements and mandate drug and background testing.
Industry groups took a more proactive approach with Assembly Bill 1360, which would have stipulated that multiple riders could be dropped off at different locations and split the fare. Sponsored by technology industry groups, the measure also drew the support of environmental organizations and rumbled through the Legislature without receiving a single “no” vote.
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But that progress halted on Monday as the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee declined to hear the bill. That shrinks the bill’s chances of advancing before a Friday deadline to pass bills out of policy committees. Proponents said the change came with little warning.
“We had drivers that had come into town; obviously a number of people were willing to testify in support of the bill,” said John Doherty, of the industry association TechNet, a bill sponsor. “It’s extraordinarily disappointing that a bill like this wouldn’t even get a public policy hearing. It had widespread support in the (Assembly), it’s good for convenience, it’s good for consumer innovation.”
The taxicab industry has consistently called for more regulation of their upstart competitors, arguing they should be held to higher professional standards, and several taxi organizations opposed AB 1360. Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who chairs the committee that withheld a vote on AB 1360, worked in the industry for years and his brothers owned a cab company. Doherty argued that Hueso has been guided by “what he perceives as good for the taxi industry.”
In past interviews Hueso has said his experience situates him well to deal with regulations affecting the taxi industry. His actions on taxi-related bills do not violate any conflict-of-interest laws. “It’s important not to piecemeal but instead take a comprehensive view of the industry that takes into consideration consumer protections, passenger and road safety,” Hueso said in a statement.