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Katy Grimes

Coddled Legislature Opposes Innovative Rideshare Car Services

Ironically, just hours after State Senator Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, voted against California’s burgeoning ride-share industry, he was arrested for driving under the influence. When State legislators get arrested for drunk driving, it is apparent that even the most coddled in government need a free market solution rather than the hassle and expense of calling a cab.

CalNewsroom: Sen. Ben Hueso partying with colleagues inside of the Capitol

Elected State Senators and Assembly members even have Capitol Sergeants-At-Arms to drive them where they need to go. The rest of the public doesn’t have Sergeants available, and have turned to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. But now, the codddled Legislature wants to do away with this innovative, free market solution to expensive and unreliable cabs, shuttle services and limousines.

Given that the Democratic Party is an enthusiastic supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, one would assume they care passionately about decreasing DUI’s.

Uber-cool car services

The uber-cool smartphone apps for Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and other rideshare services, have revolutionized car services, allowing riders to order a car hire through a smart phone.

This free market response to the heavily regulated, unionized and expensive taxi and shuttle industry, is brilliant. Uber, Sidecar and Lyft work beautifully, and usually flawlessly, unlike unreliable shuttle services, and sometimes hostile and unscrupulous taxi drivers. And it is significantly less expensive.

Some in the media have said consumers only care about the immediacy and convenience of the quick, easy-to-order rideshare car services, and not about who is driving, or if they have insurance.

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to the hundreds of California Uber, Sidecar and Lyft users I’ve talked to recently. Single women, married couples, older couples, college students, and couples on dates, say they love Uber because they feel safer knowing ahead who is coming to pick them up, and appreciate the ability to make the payment transaction, ahead of the ride using a credit or debit card, instead of cash.

Sprung out of the heavily regulated and very expensive, unionized cab and shuttle service industry, these new rideshare car services are the ultimate expression of a free market solution and innovation.

Uber was created in 2009 and rolled out in New York City in 2010 as an alternative to taxi service, which had become hostile, sometimes unsafe, expensive, and heavily regulated.

Uber, Sidecar and Lyft, allow a client to download an app on a smart phone, and enter bank card infor for cashless transactions. When a ride is needed, you simply type in your address and destination, and within a couple of minutes a driver sends a text message confirming a pickup – usually within about five minutes. The driver sends a photo of him or herself, a description of the car, a cost estimate, and BAZINGA —  a nifty, clean, late model car shows up to drive you to your destination.

Republicans should own this issue

Being the party of less government, and full of free marketers, Republicans should own this issue. However, too many in the Legislature are supporting anti-rideshare bills AB 2293, and AB 612, would require ride-sharing companies to abide by extensive new regulations, and be the end of the innovative ride-share industry.

And if Democrats who represent big California cities, were honest, they’d be supportive of the rideshare car companies because their constituents love them.

Earlier this month, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul said that the bills could mean the end of the industry that’s helped minimize drunk driving. Paul told the Mercury News that the bill was “a burdensome approach that is backed by the taxicab lobby, really, to try and shut us down. If it passes, it is a disaster — it would literally spell the end of the ride-share industry.”

John Hrabe of CalNewsroom reported, “By late Friday morning, one Capitol observer had coined a new hash tag on Twitter:” #HuesoNeedsUber.

“Is it time for ‪@CASenateDems to setup a dial-a-ride for their caucus parties, or just use ‪@Uber? Maybe ‪#HuesoNeedsUber.”

The anti-Uber bills

Assembly Bill 2293, by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would require the ride service companies’ insurance to cover its drivers from the instant they turn on their smartphone app.

AB 2293, advanced out of the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier in the month.

“Bonilla’s bill requires $750,000 in commercial liability insurance from the moment drivers turn on the app, and $1 million from when they agree to pick up a passenger until the passenger gets out of the car,” the San Jose Mercury News reported. “That’s a lot more than what’s required of taxi and livery services.”

Uber, Sidecar and Lyft, have had to hire powerful lobbyists to fight the bills, to even have a chance against powerful union and industry lobbyists. This is Capitol politics at its worst.

Killing innovation

TechNet and The Internet Association issued a statement to the State Legislature opposing AB 2293 and AB 612:

“Our organizations, who represent a significant portion of California’s most dynamic and transformative industries, employing more than one million Californians, urge your strong opposition to AB 2293 and AB 612.  These bills establish excessive, duplicative insurance and background check requirements for ridesharing services.  The costly and burdensome regulatory mandates proposed in these bills threaten to chill one of California’s most exciting technology sectors, the “sharing economy.

“…AB 2293 and AB 612 send entrepreneurs an ominous message.  You can build a better product, create thousands of new jobs and engage thoughtfully in negotiations – but powerful Sacramento interests can torpedo a promising new enterprise.”

Last week, Uber riders and driver partners delivered more than 17,000 petitions to Assemblywoman Bonilla opposing AB 2293. Within the last few days, an additional 40,000+ Californians have gone to to oppose the bill.

If ever there was an issue ripe for lawmakers to support, instead of special interests, trial lawyers, and lobbyists, this is it – especially since one of those lawmakers was arrested Friday while driving drunk. He could have called for a ride — for about $10 bucks.

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