Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Uber, Lyft regulation pondered by California committee

Robert Callahan, the Internet Association speaks during a Capitol rally, along with Uber and Lyft drivers, in Sacramento on June 17, 2014.
Robert Callahan, the Internet Association speaks during a Capitol rally, along with Uber and Lyft drivers, in Sacramento on June 17, 2014.

The on-demand economy, which lets you order a ride or other services with a tap of a smartphone, presents a vexing set of policy problems for lawmakers. Companies like Uber and Lyft have transformed how people get around and reaped billions in profits. They’ve also clashed with elected officials over what types of rules they should have to follow.

The most prominent fight so far centered on insurance. Presaging the conflicts to come, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications are holding a joint hearing today on how to create “a level playing field in the transportation-for-hire market.” Things get started at 1:30 p.m. in room 4203.

Witnesses include several academics, representatives of the California Public Utilities Commission and of airports that have grappled with pickup policies. But the most sparks should fly from a panel that will include representatives of Uber, Lyft, the taxi industry and livery drivers. Taxi and limousine companies who have seen their business undercut by new competition have been among the loudest voices calling for ride-hailing companies to conform to more rules.

Also worth noting: one of the two hosting committees is where a carpooling bill supported by tech companies perished last year without a vote. Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, the committee’s chair, has family ties to the taxi industry.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, on what needs to happen at the Coastal Commission.

FRESH TRACKS: Keep tabs on your elected officials’ legislating and fundraising with our Track the Legislature feature.

PAYDAY: Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers heralded a law targeting the wage gap between men and women as the strongest in the nation. A folllowup effort this year shifts the focus from gender-based inequity to racial gaps, updating the law to say people of all races and ethnicities must be paid the same for “substantially similar” work. Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, will discuss Senate Bill 1063 alongside civil rights leaders at 10:30 a.m. in room 1190.

RETREATING: Assembly Republicans are in Calaveras County today on a policy retreat, where they’ll be working on an agenda for this year that includes a focus on poverty and California’s housing shortfall.

CAP-AND-TRADE: More money will be flowing into California’s climate coffers soon, with the Air Resources Board holding its latest greenhouse gas allowance auction today. Industrial firms have spent $3.5 billion already on permits, producing a windfall that legislators can’t quite decide how to spend. Around 70,000 more are up for sale today, with the minimum price set at $12.75 per.

FLOW: Two of the more contentious topics in the world of water policy come before the California Water Commission​ today. They’ll discuss how to implement California’s landmark groundwater regulations, which continue to be a source of consternation in ag-heavy areas, and the guidelines for funding new water storage projects out of the water bond voters passed in 2014. You may remember Republicans and Central Valley Democrats insisting on more storage money, while environmentalists fretted about building ecologically unfriendly projects. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at 1416 Ninth Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who turns 48 today.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to correct Melendez’s age.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert