uber signing

Uber and Lyft drivers watch on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, as Gov. John Bel Edwards signs legislation setting uniform rules to govern ridesharing in Louisiana. The bill's sponsors, Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, sitting on the left, and Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, also watch at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday signed legislation aimed at expanding ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft statewide.

Edwards signed the measure, House Bill 575, on the campus of Nicholls State University near the home district of the chief sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma.

The legislation sets up uniform rules to oversee Uber and Lyft.

Backers say the oversight is needed to end the patchwork of local regulations in place now, which they say makes it difficult to use ride-sharing services across parish lines.

"Creating a statewide framework for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft benefits our smaller and rural communities where ride-share services aren't currently available," Edwards said in a statement.

"Bringing these services to these areas opens up new places and businesses for people where they live, makes it easier for visitors in Louisiana to connect with our local experiences and helps reduce impaired driving," he said.

The rules will be overseen by the state Department of Transportation and Development.

Supporters of the legislation have tried to win approval for the changes since 2017.

Similar bills won lopsided support in the state House before dying in the Senate Judiciary A Committee in 2017 and 2018, which is chaired by Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, who handled the bill in the Senate this year.

The proposal last year was sponsored by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, whose involvement was seen at the time as being instrumental in winning final approval.

Barras was one of the co-sponsors of this year's legislation.

Magee said it made sense for the governor to sign the bill at Nicholls "because it is the kind of place that can benefit from this legislation."

"Ride-share services decrease the number of DWIs and increase jobs and it is beyond time that we brought them all to all of our communities in Louisiana," Magee said, also in a statement.

Some ride-sharing drivers attended the bill-signing ceremony.

Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie led the opposition in the Senate committee for three years, killing similar bills in 2017 and 2018 before the measure cleared the committee this time.

Martiny argued that Uber and Lyft will face lighter regulations than taxicabs and that the ride-sharing services should be overseen by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which regulates cabbies, not DOTD.

Supporters of the bill said limits on the jurisdiction of the PSC would cause other problems.

The bill won final Senate approval 34-1, with Martiny casting the lone no vote.

It passed the House 99-0.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.