An email from a Coeur d’Alene administrator reveals the city is actively working to kill a bill to yank regulation for companies like Uber and Lyft from local governments.
Former state Sen. Jim Hammond, now the city manager for Coeur d’Alene, messaged a handful of north Idaho senators last week asking them to kill the legislation.
“Please hold HB 262,” Hammond wrote in the March 18 message. “This is a matter more appropriate for local governance.”
Hammond’s opinion should hold at least some sway with the committee; he served as the panel’s chair before retiring from the Idaho Senate in 2012.
“As with taxis, we as consumers rely on our local government officials to assure the (sic) any kind of public transportation is safe, clean and reasonably priced,” Hammond wrote.
Perhaps Hammond’s ire should be directed at a few members of the Boise City Council.
After Uber launched operations in the Treasure Valley in October 2014, the company and the city couldn’t compromise on regulations. The city wanted companies like Uber and Lyft to adhere to taxi rules, while the companies felt they should have newer, more innovative regulations.
When Uber couldn’t find what it wanted at Boise City Hall, the company pulled its drivers from the city and appealed to state lawmakers for statewide rules. The Idaho House passed the plan last week and the Senate Transportation Committee will consider the bill tomorrow.
The plan would block all Idaho cities and counties from imposing their own regulations for Uber-like companies.
The Senate panel’s new chair, Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican from Rogerson, acknowledged Hammond’s email, but pledged to move ahead with the hearing despite the former senator’s objections.
“My commitment is to have a fair, open hearing,” the chairman said.
Asked if it’s appropriate for a city official to openly lobby state lawmakers, Brackett deflected. “Certainly he’s welcome to testify,” he told IdahoReporter.com.
Hammond didn’t respond to an email from IdahoReporter.com asking about city lobbying.
Coeur d’Alene City Councilor Dan Gookin said Hammond was likely acting on behalf of Mayor Steve Widmeyer, and that the former senator didn’t consult the council before contacting Brackett and other senators.
Nevertheless, Gookin said he opposes the bill because he believes it’s an affront to local control over regulations.
“Why not abolish all municipalities then?” Gookin asked. “I’m a fan of local control.”
The Association of Idaho Cities opposes the bill, too, on nearly the same grounds as Gookin.