Uber legislation makes a stealth appearance | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 6, 2015

Uber legislation makes a stealth appearance

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 7:34 AM

STATE CONTROL: Bill would take Uber regulation away from cities.
  • STATE CONTROL: Bill would take Uber regulation away from cities.

So much at the legislature, so few reporters and so little space. When the legislature is quietly and quickly killing decades of work to consolidate inefficient small school districts; stacking up ways to hamper women's medical rights; looking after personal interests (Bart Hester's billboard tax cut, for example); preserving Obamacare; reworking corrections, it's hard to note everything.

So thanks to readers who closely follow the bills. For example:

Sen. Jason Rapert introduced at 4:14 p.m. Wednesday another one of those bills to end local control of a city regulatory function. By 3:25 p.m. Thursday, it had zoomed out of a Senate committee with a "do-pass" recommendation.

Rapert's little ol' SB 800 would seize from cities the ability to regulate "transportation network companies" — Uber, in other words. You might know that Fayetteville has been fussing with Uber over regulation of for-hire car service and Little Rock had its own tussle.

No more under the Rapert bill. The state Public Service Commission would take over regulation of such companies. Not conventional taxi service. They'd still be left to city regulators, while Uber, Lyft and similar would operate under state rules that seem, on a cursory glance, to dovetail with the outline Uber wanted Little Rock to adopt in the capital city. Rules include minimum insurance coverage for an Uber driver while responding to a pickup call but not carrying a passenger. This has been a source of some controversy nationwide. The bill prohibits local governments from assessing any sort of fee on a company operating in their boundaries.

Uber has some high-powered Republican lobbyists in Arkansas. I'm guessing they've been visiting over on the House side, too. Capitol Advisors Group — MItchell Lowe, Bill Vickery and Mary Mendelsohn — do have credit cards. Maybe they can have a "scheduled activity" with House Transportation. They laid out $2,300 for an "inaugural after party" at Samantha's Tap Room and Wood Grill Jan. 13 for clients including Uber Technologies.

It's another bill to add to the list of Republican local control hypocrisy. They like it when they like how the local powers vote. But they take a more statist view when local wishes run counter to their own.

Think gay rights.

Think guns on college campuses.

Think Sen. Bart Hester's bill to strip local governments of the ability to regulate tree trimming. Really.

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