A Louisiana House-passed bill aimed at expanding Uber and Lyft ride-sharing services statewide won approval Tuesday in a key Senate committee after dying in the same panel in 2017 and 2018.
The measure, House Bill 575, would set up uniform rules to oversee the services and, backers say, make the rides more accessible in rural areas.
It won approval in the Senate Judiciary A Committee 2-1.
Voting for the bill were state Sens. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria and Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City.
The no vote was cast by Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport.
The proposal next faces action in the Senate and is sure to spark more controversy, including which state agency would enforce the rules.
Under the legislation, Lyft and Uber would be regulated by the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Amid committee opposition, House Speaker Taylor Barras shelved his own bill that would set up statewide rules to govern Lyft and Uber and wide…
Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, who has been instrumental in killing the bill in the two previous years, repeatedly asked why the services would not be regulated by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, like taxicabs.
"You make the operations regulated by the PSC and I will co-author the bill," Martiny told backers. "Tell me what the PSC is going to make you do that you don't want to do."
Martiny added later, "No one has given me a good reason why Uber and Lyft should not be regulated the same way as cab drivers.".
Supporters of the bill said that, after earlier planning for the ride-sharing services to be under the state Department of Agriculture, DOTD make sense.
"I think DOTD is a good place for it to be regulated and they will do just as good a job and have the ability to do it," said Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, Senate sponsor of the bill and chairman of the committee.
State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, House sponsor of the bill, said how the PSC regulates taxicabs is not the gold standard for oversight.
"There are other options out there," Magee said.
An amendment by Martiny to put Uber and Lyft regulations under the PSC failed on a 2-2 vote.
Backers say Louisiana is one of just five states with a "patchwork" of regulations on ride-hailing services.
Ward said he would have trouble using Uber or Lyft to travel to Tiger Stadium on the day of a game.
He said the driver in West Baton Rouge Parish would likely be barred from picking him up in East Baton Rouge Parish under current rules.
"That is just one of the specifics on why this is so important," Ward said of his proposal.
The bill requires background screenings for drivers, electronic receipts and easy identification of drivers and vehicles.
Ward said about 60 people filed cards in support of the legislation.
Arthur McDonald, an Uber driver for the past 3 1/2 years, said he has provided about 3,500 rides.
"I have saved a lot of people from getting DWI's, accidents," McDonald told the committee.
Victor Silvio, who lives in Erwinville, said he drives for Uber and Lyft because his 24-year-old-son was killed six years ago by a drunk driver.
"I like keeping drunks off the road," Silvio said.
An official of United Cabs of New Orleans said that, under the legislation, Uber and Lyft would avoid stringent rules faced by taxicab drivers at a time when the value of taxis is plummeting.
In the past concerns that similar bills would upset local rules set by officials in Baton Rouge and New Orleans helped kill the proposals.
"We have worked really hard to get into a place where the local government or governments that have specifics in place, in particular the fees, stay grandfathered in," Ward said.
The proposed changes have previously won lopsided approval in the House, including a 2018 bill sponsored by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.
A bid on the final day of the session to expand access to ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft was killed Friday by Senate President John Alario.
Barras shelved his own plan last year amid heavy opposition in the same committee that approved similar legislation on Tuesday.
The current bill won House approval 92-0 on April 29.