House votes to set standards for Uber

Connecticut cabbies initially looked to the Capitol to ban Uber.

CTMIRROR,ORG

Connecticut cabbies initially looked to the Capitol to ban Uber. (file photo)

A year after Uber entered the Connecticut market, ignoring rules and regulations imposed on the taxi industry, the House voted Saturday night for a bill that would establish safety and insurance standards on the ride-sharing business.

“I think it’s the way of the future,” said Rep. Gail Lavielle, R- Wilton, one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill. “I don’t think it’s up to us to stop business development that addresses a market need.”

“If we didn’t vote for this what are we saying out there?” said Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chair of the Transportation Committee.

Banning the fast-growing business may have been a possibility in 2014, but not after a year in operation bringing service to portions of Connecticut where taxis are hard or impossible to find.

“I know my daughter uses Uber, and it’s very, very convenient,” said Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, D-Stamford.

The bill was approved, 133 to 9, and sent to the Senate.

A century-old regulatory system dictates whom taxi companies can hire, how many cabs they can put on the road, where they can send them and how much they can charge. It takes more than seven months to obtain permission to add a cab to a company fleet.

Uber complies with none of those requirements as a “transportation network company.”

It owns no cars, employs no drivers and charges whatever the market will bear. A foundation of its business is a smart-phone app used by passengers to summon rides and then pay for them.

The bill requires Uber to use a private third-party company to screen drivers for criminal records and sets standards for insurance coverage and vehicle safety.

Rep. Christie Carpino, R-Cromwell, said the bill should require more rigorous criminal background checks such as those required of cab drivers, who must submit fingerprints.

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