Senate leaders unveil bill to regulate ride hailing services

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BOSTON >> A bill that would regulate ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, including requiring drivers undergo criminal background checks and mandate they carry insurance policies of at least $1 million, was unveiled Thursday by Massachusetts Senate leaders.

Unlike a House version of the bill, the Senate version would not ban drivers working for ride-hailing companies from picking up passengers at Boston's Logan International Airport, a provision meant to appease the taxi industry, which has struggled against the competition.

The Senate bill would also create a trust fund paid for by an assessment on transportation network companies of not more than 10 cents per ride.

The money would be distributed to local municipalities based on the proportion of rides originating in a city or town.

The bill is part of an ongoing effort at the Statehouse to deal with the surging popularity of ride-hailing companies that has put the traditional taxi industry under pressure.

Ride-hailing services — also known as transportation network companies — allow individuals to use an application on their cellphones to book a ride.

The bill would ban drivers for the companies from picking up riders using any other manner, including through street hails, cruising or street solicitations.

It would also require the ride hailing company to provide an option for a rider to give a tip to a driver through the app.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Senate chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said the committee met with ride-hailing companies, taxi owners and municipal leaders while crafting the bill.

The Acton Democrat said the bill "balances public safety with our flourishing innovation culture" by creating a strong regulatory framework and instituting strict background checks while also giving ride hailing companies room to grow.

The bill would also:

— Require decals to be displayed on all cars being used by ride-hailing drivers

— Require the companies to provide "clear and conspicuous transportation fare estimates to riders at all times", including during surge pricing

— Ensure each driver complete a background check which includes a review of local and national criminal records, sex offender records and driving records

— Require the company comply with all laws regarding nondiscrimination against riders and accommodate riders with special needs.

The House passed its version of the bill on a 139-16 vote in March.

The Senate is planning to debate its bill next week.

If approved, the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with the House version before being sent to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's desk for his signature.

Baker has filed his own bill which would also require drivers for ride hailing services to undergo state criminal background checks and require the companies to carry at least $1 million in liability insurance for each ride.


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