BATON ROUGE — A bill that would create statewide rules for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft was shelved in a Senate committee here Tuesday, likely killing it for the second straight year.
Senators and others opposed to House Bill 749 said it gave ride-sharing companies an unfair advantage over traditional cab companies and didn't provide adequate protections for riders.
But those supporting the bill by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said its defeat will leave Louisiana residents living, working or partying outside of the state's major cities stranded for another year and in the dark ages for transportation.
Barras noted that while most Louisiana cities have welcomed one or more ride-sharing companies, "90 percent of the state is anxiously awaiting this service," he said.
The speaker noted someone who secured an Uber ride in Lafayette to travel to another municipality within the parish like Scott or Broussard couldn't get a ride back to the city under current regulations.
He said most smaller towns and cities don't have traditional cab service.
"From a tourism perspective the expectation is when you land in Shreveport or Lafayette and Monroe or Lake Charles you assume Uber is in most of the (surrounding) communities," he said.
Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, was the fiercest critic of the bill, which was supported by a committee room full of Uber drivers in black shirts and Lyft drivers in pink shirts.
"I care about these people being able to make a living, but I care more about the people in the back seat," Martiny said.
Martiny said Uber and Lyft drivers don't have to carry the same type of commercial insurance as cab companies. He also said passengers are asked to waive their rights to sue in case of an accident and opt in for arbitration instead.
"I'm for making more money, but not at the expense of public safety," Martiny said.
Representatives of Uber and Lyft said they believe their scrutiny of drivers and attention to safety exceed traditional cab companies and the lack of statewide regulations "presents an inconsistent patchwork of regulations," according to Uber's Nick Juliano.
"We're committed to the safety of our drivers and passengers," Juliano said.
Juliano and Barras noted 44 other states have statewide rules for ride-sharing companies.
One driver told Martiny, "There's room for all of us."
"So what's wrong with the same standard?" Martiny said.
The bill sailed through the House under the speaker's wing with a 97-1 vote, but it died in the same Senate committee that heard a similar bill last year.
Barras' bill would have grandfathered in regulations for cities that have already established a framework for ride-sharing and allowed for a one-percent fee for local municipalities who don't have the service now.
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry testified in favor of the bill, saying it creates jobs and economic opportunity.
But in the end Barras asked to voluntarily shelve his own bill, which the committee agreed to do, but not without Martiny saying, "I don't want to hear it again."