Washington state bill tries to force Uber, Lyft to act more like normal taxis

Washington state lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate smartphone-enabled car services like Uber and Lyft, which may override rules imposed last year in Seattle that dictate how the companies compete with traditional taxis.

Julio Cortez/AP/File
Smart phones displaying Uber car availability in New York. Uber will partner with an insurance startup to offer 'per-mile' insurance to drivers in select cities, the ride share company announced this week.

Lawmakers in Washington state were considering legislation on Monday to regulate smartphone-enabled car services like Uber and Lyft, possibly overriding rules imposed in Seattle last year to manage how the companies compete with traditional taxis.

In July, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced new guidelines that removed a cap on the number of drivers for transportation network companies while also awarding new taxi medallions in a bid to appease competing interests hungry for fares in the largest city in the Pacific Northwest.

The proposed state legislation, which will be taken up on Monday by the state Senate's transportation committee, would standardize rules for ridesharing companies operating in other cities in the state, including Spokane and Tacoma.

The law would ensure a "driver's compliance with insurance, qualification, conduct, nondiscrimination, maximum work hours, criminal history, and driving record requirements," the bill states.

Specifically, it would require that insurance policies are valid from when the driver is logged on to the system, and not just when a passenger is in the car. Rideshare companies would be required to submit quarterly reports on coverage and driving records.

Some Seattle officials were concerned the state measure would derail a hard-fought compromise in the city of about 630,000 people, where the popularity of ridesharing has soared in recent years.

"The city has expressed to the bill's sponsor that as the process unfolds it will be critical that the protections we have in place are not diminished," Denise Movius, of Seattle's Finance and Administrative Services, told the Seattle Times newspaper.

Opposition to Uber, Lyft and similar companies has risen among local officials in U.S. cities and traditional taxi drivers, who argue the upstarts do not face the same stringent regulations and insurance requirements as traditional cabs.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the proposed Washington legislation.

In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law requiring ridesharing companies' insurance to cover drivers from the moment they turn on their app, not just from when they accept a ride on their app.

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