Uber addresses ride-sharing legislation

There are two competing bills working through the Transportation Committees in both chambers this session.  SB 6043 is a bill promoted by Uber and Lyft with input from a broad coalition of stakeholders.  SB 6500 is a bill promoted by the Teamsters 117, which also has drawn input from a broad and similar list of stakeholders.

We got the Teamsters’ take on the two bills here.

Last week, I spoke with Caleb Weaver, Uber’s General Manager for Washington State, to get his sense of the competing bills, and where things stand in the process.

According to Weaver, 45 states have a statewide regulatory structure for ride sharing companies, statutorily known as “transportation network companies” or TNCs.  Washington State isn’t one of them.

“That has allowed a patchwork of regulatory environments across different municipalities that makes it very difficult to do business in some cases,” he said.

Weaver said that coming out of the 2017 session, Uber tried to address a number of the concerns stakeholders raised during the session in order to put together a bill that would be viable, constructive, and could pass.

“This fall, we floated a framework that tried to incorporate the ideas and address concerns that were raised during the last legislative session. We also wanted to be realistic about the shortened session.  We also really tried to take a fresh look at some of the language around preemption provisions.”

The preemption provisions included in the two bills carve out the authority of the City of Seattle and of King County to regulate and audit, to varying degrees, these TNCs.

According to a comparison of the two bills produced by legislative staff, SB 6500 backed by the Teamsters has more specific provisions for exclusion.

Weaver said they were very careful to leave the issue of collective bargaining for drivers out of this legislation.

“That issue is working its way through the courts.  It’s in the 9th circuit now, and we think that’s where those questions should be resolved.  We tried to write this bill as clearly as possible to not have any impact Seattle’s collective bargaining ordinance.”

Notably, Weaver’s concerns with SB 6500, the Teamster bill, include a provision which he believes can allow local police officials to “pull over drivers and ask for their papers.”  He cited Section 11 of the bill which reads:

Upon request from the department or local law enforcement officer, a transportation network company driver must show proof of effective primary automobile insurance and a waybill.

Given the significant number of immigrants who are Uber and Lyft drivers, and the nature of the federal policy conversation on immigration, this clause might require clarification to get through the legislative process.

The House counterparts to these bills, HB 2716 and 2945, have a hearing on Feb. 1.

While the first policy cut off is this Friday, February 2, because these bills are both in the Transportation Committee (which is a fiscal committee), they enjoy an extended cut off of February 6th.

One of these bills will need to move forward for this issue to remain alive in the session.  However, when I asked Weaver if he foresaw this getting worked out in the budget, with NTIB legislation (NTIB means “needed to implement the budget”) to follow, he said “We’re not taking any options off the table.”