State Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) has introduced a measure, HB 907, that could effectively shutdown Uber and Lyft in Georgia, insulating the taxicab and limousine industries from competition, despite an antiquated business model.
The filing of such a measure was all but telegraphed, much like it has been in other areas of the country. Just last week, Thomas Wheatley noted that the taxi and limousine industries in Atlanta has declared war on the app-based transportation services and want to “level the playing field.”
So, rather than asking the legislature to lessen its regulatory burden and compliance costs, the reaction taxi and limousine industries to Uber and Lyft is: “ZOMG! REGULATE THEM NOW!!! Yay, protectionism!” Or something.
Anti-market politicians and regulators in other areas of the country have been gunning for Uber, Lyft, and other app-based car services. In most instances, these busybodies are trying to protect a favored industry. Because, you know, cronyism.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that Powell, the primary sponsor of the measure, received $500 from the Georgia Limousine Association on September 9, 2013, per his year-end campaign disclosure. This appears to be the first contribution made by the special interest group since the 2008 cycle. Not suggesting that $500 buys Powell’s support, just simply pointing it out.
Powell told Creative Loafing that he’s concerned about public safety, citing a recent accident in which one of its drivers hit and killed a six-year-old girl. Uber has denied responsibility because the driver didn’t have a passenger and was not en route to pick up one.
The company, which requires drivers to have personal insurance coverage, carries a $1 million liability policy to cover a shortfall for on-the-job incidents in which its contracted driver is deemed responsible. A Lyft spokeswoman told Creative Loafing that “minimum liability insurance for taxis is $25,000,” which is technically true — though taxi companies in the Atlanta-area hire drivers as independent contractors to avoid potential liability.
The bill, filed yesterday, would add a host of statutes related to “transportation referral service provider[s]” (ie. Uber, Lyft). It would allow the Department of Public Safety to license individual drivers, charging them up to $100 annually, and adds a number of other compliance regulations, including a requirement that they obtain “either a certificate of public necessity and convenience or medallion.”
It would require criminal background checks on all drivers and a zero tolerance policy toward the use of drugs and alcohol. Failure to comply with any of the statutes and regulations would result in a $50,000 per violation fine.
As noted, Powell is the primary sponsor. Reps. Tom Rice (R-Norcoss), Jimmy Pruett (R-Eastman), Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), Tom McCall (R-Elberton), and Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) have all co-sponsored the anti-competition measure.
For the record, I’m a big fan of Uber, especially the UberX service. I use it often during work-related trips to Washington, DC, mainly because I don’t like the Metro and my experiences with DC-area cabs haven’t been great.