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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Years Behind Other States, Rules for Uber, Lyft Win Final Passage

By Kyle Constable

The Senate voted 28-8 tonight to approve a bill that would make Connecticut one of the last states to impose standards on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The bill now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after facing what proved to be its last two close calls — a pair of Republican-backed amendments in the Senate.

With the legislature’s upper chamber evenly divided between Democratic and Republican members, both proposed amendments ended in a deadlock, leaving Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to cast tiebreaking votes. She opposed both amendments, probably keeping the bill from stalling for another year.

Had the Republican amendments passed, the bill would have had to go back to the House of Representatives with little more than 24 hours remaining in the legislative session — a death sentence for most legislation.

The measure’s final passage in the Senate marks the end of false starts and intense lobbying that played out over the course of three sessions.

Ride-sharing companies have been operating in the state without any regulation since Uber first arrived in 2014. The bill would classify Uber, Lyft and similar operators as “transportation network companies” — meaning they would be required to implement driver background checks and vehicle inspections as well as mandate that drivers have insurance coverage.

The final language was agreed to by representatives from Uber and Lyft, as well as taxi companies that, two years ago, sought to ban ride-sharing companies from the state altogether. Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, was the bill’s primary architect and has been its foremost navigator through the legislative process.

The bill passed the House 103-39 last month with bipartisan support.

Senate Republicans opposed a provision of the bill that would require ride-sharing companies entering the market to pay a $50,000 fee. Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, introduced an amendment to reduce it to $5,000, making it easier for smaller ride-sharing companies to launch in the state.

The vote on the amendment was along party lines, with Wyman casting the tiebreaking vote to defeat it.

“The chairman is going to vote nay, only because of all the work that has been done beforehand,” Wyman said as she informed the Senate clerk of her decision.

The second amendment, introduced by Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, would have toughened the bill’s background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance provisions.

McLachlan spent nearly an hour pointing out what he called critical holes in the legislation. He said Uber dictated the bill’s terms.

“This is about as loose as it comes,” McLachlan said. “And I know why, because it’s what Uber put on the table. The more I get into the bill, the more aggravated I get — that this is an Uber bill. This is not a Connecticut General Assembly bill. This is not a taxi bill.”

Again, Wyman voted against the amendment.

The final bill drew strong Republican support, however, with more than half of the caucus casting votes in favor.


Posted 06/06/17 at 11:40 PM  Permalink


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