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  • Arizona, Maryland Become Latest States To Pass Ridesharing Regulations

    Just days after Arizona became the ninth state to establish guidelines for ridesharing, Maryland became the tenth, passing regulations in the waning hours of the legislative session Monday.

    “With this legislation, lawmakers ensure a future for ridesharing in the state while addressing concerns raised by other transportation services,” The Washington Post says of the Maryland bill, though the statement could as easily apply to Arizona.

    Taxi operators are generally the most vocal critics of ridesharing services, complaining that companies such as Uber and Lyft enjoy artificial competitive advantages because they are not subject to regulations that apply to traditional taxis. Ridesharing companies, though, counter that many of those regulations, such as medallions that limit the number of taxis that can operate legally in a city, exist mainly to restrict competition in the market for the benefit of established participants. (RELATED: Five Ideas to Put Taxis, Ridesharing Companies on an Equal Footing)

    The Maryland bill will not become official until it is signed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, but advocates say they anticipate the governor’s support, while in Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the ridesharing legislation last Thursday.

    Both bills address the most common concerns raised by ridesharing opponents, requiring drivers to undergo background checks and carry liability insurance that covers passengers. Additionally, the Arizona bill, which passed with bipartisan support, “requires vehicle inspections … and sets a zero tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use by drivers,” according to The Arizona Republic.

    The Maryland bill, on the other hand, was more hotly debated, going through multiple rounds of negotiations before Democratic State Sen. Bill Ferguson, the bill’s lead sponsor, finally brokered a compromise that alleviated the most pressing concerns voiced by taxi operators and ridesharing proponents, particularly regarding background checks. (RELATED: California State Senator Arrested for Drunk Driving Hours After Voting for Anti-Uber Bill)

    Ferguson told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he was inspired to propose the ridesharing legislation after learning that “the Public Service Commission was moving forward with regulating ridesharing under the for-hire driver license process that was already in place under state law for vehicles like limos and sedans (but not taxis),” which required fingerprinting of drivers.

    “The original bill took fingerprints out of the equation entirely and put in place a self-regulating model” that would have let ridesharing companies establish their own systems for background checks, Ferguson said, but lawmakers eventually realized that, “There may be companies that are less-diligent about background checks, so we needed a backstop.”

    That backstop takes the form of a nine-month waiver from the fingerprinting requirement for companies who demonstrate that their enhanced background check process meets standards set out in the new law, during which time the PSC will evaluate the effectiveness of those models relative to fingerprinting.

    “We are basically saying, ‘prove to us that your system is as effective or better than the fingerprint system,” Ferguson explained, and “If it’s as good or better, that fingerprint requirement may be waived indefinitely.” (RELATED: Anti-Uber Efforts Mostly Fizzling)

    The compromise seems to have placated all sides, earning support from the taxi industry, the insurance industry, consumer protection agencies, and ridesharing companies, including both Uber and Lyft. “I’ve received a lot of supportive comments from people across the state from people who are excited about predictability for ridesharing services,” Ferguson noted.

    Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

     

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