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Ride-sharing bills compete in the legislature

Two bills that would create statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, are at the center of debate regarding the specific rules and protocols these companies should follow.

SB 6043 and SB 6500 would establish policies for a variety of issues including background checks for drivers, vehicle safety, company permits, and per trip fees. While there are similarities between the bills and the specific areas they cover, there are several key differences that have supporters of these two bills at odds.

SB 6500 would establish stricter regulations than SB 6043, and is supported by Teamsters 117 and representatives from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. On the other hand, ride-sharing companies, referred to as transportation network companies (TNC’s) in the bills, have thrown their support behind SB 6043.

Driver Requirements:

In terms of driver requirements, SB 6043 requires a minimum age of 20, a valid driver’s license, and an annual background check. SB 6500 is more rigorous in that it requires potential drivers to submit a 12-month driving history, complete safety trainings, and submit to a fingerprint background check.

In a public hearing last week, representatives from Uber and Lift both testified in support of SB 6043 and in opposition of SB 6500, specifically pointing to fingerprinting as a major point of contention between the bills.

Laura Bisesto, a public policy manager at Lyft, said that up to fifty percent of arrests in databases used for fingerprint checking do not show final dispositions, meaning they aren’t clear if the arrested individual was eventually convicted or acquitted. She says these databases are incomplete and may punish potential drivers for arrests, even if the charges are eventually dropped.

“The inaccuracy of these databases is terrifying. Our bill’s [SB 6043] comprehensive check goes to the source of the arrest instead and gives us an accurate picture of a perspective driver’s background,” said Bisesto.

State Preemption:

Another key difference between the bills is the level of state preemption. SB 6043 says that the state preempts all areas of regulation except in Seattle or King County. On the other hand, SB 6500 has more exclusions to state preemption and would allow large cities, counties, and port authorities to maintain any regulations that were in place before January 2017.

Brenda Wiest, Legislative Director for Teamsters 117, testified that local jurisdictions should be the ones enforcing the standards and policies of TNCs.

“We support the stronger driver and vehicle standards in 6500,” said Wiest. “Insurance, background checks, drivers standards, and vehicle safety are all issues that make sense for our state to regulate, but local governments need to have flexibility and power to create, enforce, and regulate the industry in their own communities.”

The two bills also differ in their permitting requirements, driver disqualifications, and penalty provisions. Supporters of 6500 maintain that 6043 falls short of the standards this industry should be held to.

“We have consistently advocated for higher standards for drivers to ensure that the ride-sharing industry is safe for consumers and drivers and SB 6500 reflects our commitment,” said Wiest.

Companion bills to SB 6043 and SB 6500 have public hearings scheduled for February 1.