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Uber regulations approved, despite city objections

Uber regulations approved, despite city objections

Dustin Hurst
March 25, 2015
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March 25, 2015

Two Idaho cities went big to kill a bill that would allow the state to regulate companies like Uber and Lyft, but came up short in the final tally.

On a 5 to 3 vote, the Senate Transportation Committee approved the new rules, which would block cities and counties from imposing their own restrictions on the companies.

The bill, already cleared by the House, moves on to the Senate floor. If it wins there, the bill would head to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk for his consideration.

City officials from Boise and Coeur d’Alene, two of Idaho’s most-populated metro areas, asked the panel to kill or amend the plan.

Jim Hammond, a former senator who now works as city administrator for Coeur d’Alene, urged the panel to hold the measure in a letter sent earlier this week to the committee chair and north Idaho senators.

During Tuesday’s hearing, an attorney for Boise said his government only wanted fingerprint-based background checks and regular vehicle inspections.

Seth Grigg, lobbyist for the Association of Idaho Cities, opposed the bill, telling senators the plan yanks local control.

Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls, fired back at Grigg, asking if cities are only interested in the fees, taxes and fines registration could generate.

“It’s not a revenue generator,” Grigg said. “It’s not a revenue center for those jurisdictions.”

Geoff Schroeder, a city councilor from Mountain Home, said while he’s typically a champion of local control, he supports the Uber bill because it would bring more competition to the state.

“This doesn’t bother me at all,” Schroeder said.

The bill still offers stout regulations for companies like Uber and Lyft. The measure requires car inspections and yearly background checks for drivers. The measure mandates the companies keep certain records for inspection.

Uber’s lobbyist, Ken McClure, said the regulations were broad enough to allow competitors in through the framework, but not so narrow as to burden companies and drivers with loads of red tape.

McClure said the nature of the the business, transporting people across invisible city boundaries, means companies should have some uniformity in rules.

“Quite frankly, transportation knows no boundaries,” McClure said. “Our commerce takes us through the valley.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, agreed. “I don’t see this as a Boise issue,” the senator said.

Sen. Roy Lacey, a Democrat from Pocatello, motioned to kill the measure, due to local control concerns.

“I think it’s a move to take away local control from the cities,” Lacey warned. Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, joined Lacey in the attempt to kill the set of rules.

Interestingly enough, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, spoke in favor of Lacey’s motion, but flipped her vote and supported sending the bill to the Senate floor.

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