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Massachusetts Approves Bill for Background Checks on Lyft and Uber Drivers

House and Senate lawmakers reached a decision late last night regarding online transportation companies like Uber and Lyft.  This brings an end to one of Massachusetts’s most high profile political debates.  Both chambers approved the bill and have sent it off to Governor Charlie Baker’s office.  The final bill that was agreed upon is a product of a six-member committee of House and Senate negotiators who developed a compromise between the two opposing “Uber bills” proposed by each chamber.  The final bill includes a state-run background check for Uber and Lyft drivers with a 20-cent-per-ride fee on the companies.  In the past, Uber and Lyft have stopped service in several cities in the U.S. for regulations they considered overly oppressive.  In this case of legislation, the two companies supported the Senate’s stance on the bill and outwardly condemned the House’s plan.

Lyft released a statement shortly after midnight applauding the final bill, saying it is a “common sense legislation that sets high safety standards.”  Uber did not make an immediate statement, but the compromised bill seems to conquer many of the problems the company had with the House’s proposal.  This bill was also good news for the riders that often use the Uber and Lyft apps.   One clause of the House’s bill proposal that would prohibit Uber and Lyft drivers from picking up from areas like Logan Airport, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was not included in the final bill.  Although Logan already has a ban that prohibits most Uber and Lyft drivers from picking up riders, the bill presented by the House would have solidified this ban for five years.  Now, it is possible for Logan to renegotiate with Uber and Lyft in the future and potentially lift this ban.  The convention center officials resisted the plan to ban the companies from their property. 

The two-step background check included in the bill is an additional precaution to the background checks already required for Uber drivers.  The state will now require Uber and Lyft to provide driver information to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), which will base background checks on that information.  Drivers that pass the DPU check will receive a certificate, which will be necessary for drivers of transportation network companies.  This system is unlike the House’s plan in which drivers would go individually to the state to receive approval, rather than through their companies.  The House’s motive was to give the state more power overseeing driver approval.  Although the House’s plan was rejected, the compromised bill does give the state more oversight through this certificate procedure, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said.  Michlewitz believes Massachusetts’s background check process is “first-in-the-nation” and he urges other states to follow suit when building their safety provisions regarding companies like Uber and Lyft.  Another safety precaution included in the bill gives the Registry of Motor Vehicles the right to design a new inspection process for the cars used by drivers of Uber and Lyft.  The inspection would require safety standards that may not be incorporated in personal vehicle inspections.  The 20-cent fee will also be imposed on every trip, of which 10 cents will go to the city to town in which the trip originated, 5 cents will go to the state’s transportation fund, and the last 5 cents will go to Uber and Lyft through a program that helps taxicab companies improve their services in a more modern sense.  This version of the bill is now up for approval by Gov. Charlie Baker who has been supportive of many parts of the bill in the past.

 

Vaccaro, Adam. “Massachusetts Lawmakers Agree on New Rules for Uber and Lyft.” Boston.com. The New York Times, 01 Aug.