State lawmakers are considering new regulations on ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
Among the new rules under review are stricter background checks and insurance requirements for drivers and collecting sales tax on passenger fares.
Uber and Lyft use smartphone apps and GPS to connect passengers with their fleet of contracted drivers.
At a study committee meeting last week, Jeff Green of the National Limousine Association testified he had no problem with competition from Uber and Lyft.
“We’re not asking them to go away. We want to them to play by the same level playing field that we are because there is expense to being a legal operating limousine company or a taxi.”
Those expenses include a special license fee, submitting to regular car inspections, and strict insurance requirements.
Rep. Alan Powell, the chair of the House public safety committee, tried to pass new regulations last year, but the effort ultimately failed to gain enough support.
Powell is now heading the study committee and again is making the case that it’s a matter of protecting citizens from drivers with criminal records and DUIs. At one point last week, he went a step further.
“Who knows what the real threat could be out there…it could be put forth by some quote lone wolf or terrorist under the guise of being a driver,” said Powell.
Both Uber and Lyft say they’re open to new regulations, but maintain they already operate with high standards.
Uber spokesman Nick Zabriskie told lawmakers their backgrounds checks include county, state, and federal records. He addressed critics who point out the checks don’t include fingerprinting.
“Safety is crucial to our brand,” said Zabriskie. “We have to go above and beyond and from our perspective there are a lot of gaps in fingerprinting that don’t satisfy the concerns of our customers or us.”
In September, some drivers employed by Atlanta’s traditional taxi cab companies filed a class action lawsuit alleging Uber is violating local and state regulations. That case is making its way through the court.
Meanwhile, Powell’s committee will finalize a set of recommendations by the end of the month. Those recommendations are expected to provide the framework for new legislation.