In a proposal sure to spark arguments, the state would enjoy total regulatory control over Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services under legislation that backers promoted Monday.
The measure, House Bill 527, is sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chairman Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville.
A coalition of supporters, called "Let's Geaux Louisiana," was on hand for a press conference to call attention to the measure.
The two-month session began at noon.
Backers said the legislation would give the state a single, regulatory framework over Uber and other services rather than relying on a wide range of rules among parishes.
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The bill would put the state Department of Transportation and Development in charge of enforcing the rules, including permits, driver requirements and disclosure of fares. The state would collect 1 percent of the gross receipts from the services. That money would then be sent to local governments where the rides originated, minus DOTD overhead expenses.
What is likely to spark controversy, however, is the part of the proposal that would ban local governments, special districts, airport authorities or port authorities from imposing taxes on firms that operate the services, drivers or vehicles, including any licensing requirements.
Officials of local governments may resist any effort to nullify chances for them to exercise oversight and collect revenue.
New Orleans Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who authored the city’s ordinance regulating ride-hailing services, said just a quick overview of the proposed law showed it fell short of the city’s ordinance in a number of
ways. It has fewer insurance requirements, less stringent background checks, does not require random drug tests or drug tests after crashes and does not prohibit surge pricing in emergencies.
The proposed state law also does not include prohibitions on discrimination in pick-ups and drop-offs and would not require the ride-hailing services to provide data that could be used to verify whether such discrimination is occurring, something that is including in the city ordinance.
“Why would you create a law that was less protective when they have already agreed to operate under our city’s law which is more protective?” Guidry asked.
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Havard said current rules governing Uber and Lyft are a patchwork of regulations.
The advantage of a state plan, he said, is that it would ensure the same quality for riders whether ride sharing services are used in New Orleans or Bossier City.
Todd Murphy, president of the Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce, said the New Orleans area alone includes 10 parishes, including five municipalities in Jefferson Parish.
"It is confusing to the driver, it is confusing to the passenger," Murphy said of existing rules. "This will just eliminate some of that confusion."
Under the bill, airports could charge Uber and others pickup fees similar to those charged taxis.
Backers include the Louisiana Retailers Association, One Acadiana and the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.
They also said 40 other states have similar laws.
A spokeswoman for Lyft said market data, including how many use the service in Louisiana, is not publicly disclosed.
Lyft provides nearly 19 million rides monthly nationwide, she said.
(Some information for this story was provided by Jeff Adelson, reporter for The New Orleans Advocate)