PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday August 25th, 2014, 3:54pm

After Quinn Vetoes Illinois Ride-Sharing Legislation, Supporters & Opponents Sound Off

Both proponents and opponents of state legislation that would have regulated commercial ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are speaking out following Gov. Pat Quinn's decision on Monday to veto the measure. Progress Illinois rounds up some of the reaction to Quinn's veto and takes a look at the debate leading up to his decision. 

Both proponents and opponents of state legislation that would have regulated commercial ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are speaking out following Gov. Pat Quinn's decision on Monday to veto the measure.

The Illinois House and Senate both passed the Ridesharing Arrangements and Consumer Protection Act, HB 4075, and its trailer amendment, HB 5331, in the spring with strong bipartisan support. 

Together, the legislation would have required ride-sharing drivers to undergo background checks and have at least $350,000 in commercial liability insurance coverage. Among other regulations, drivers who work more than 36 hours in a two-week period would have to get a chauffeur’s license.

Quinn vetoed both measures.

"The principle of home rule is an important one," the governor said in a statement. "I am vetoing this legislation because it would have mandated a one-size-fits-all approach to a service that is best regulated at the local level.”

Public interest group Citizen Action/Illinois, which launched an online petition last Wednesday urging Quinn to sign the ride-sharing legislation, wants state lawmakers to attempt an override of the governor's veto.

“We continue to believe that the rideshare protection act is landmark consumer protection,” William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois, said in a statement. “It is not often that Citizen Action is on the other side of the Governor’s veto pen ... It is now up to the Illinois State Legislature to act to override the Governor’s veto."

State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) also disagreed with Quinn's veto.

"I'm disappointed that the two bills I worked on this spring to put consumer safety first and provide a fair marketplace for the ridesharing services were vetoed," the representative said in a statement. "I disagree with the contention that this should be decided only locally, as these services stretch across city and county lines and the bills would provide important baseline protections that local governments could build upon. Both the main bill and trailer bill received overwhelming support in the House and Senate in the spring. I will now talk with my colleagues and evaluate the best path for moving forward. It is clear to me we need to provide consumers with the assurances they will get to their destinations safely when they use these services."

On the other hand, ride-sharing firms Uber and Lyft, which have smartphone apps that connect riders to drivers, applauded Quinn's veto. 

"The veto of anti-ridesharing legislation today by Governor Quinn shows not only his commitment to affordable transportation choices for Illinois consumers, but his commitment to the thousands of drivers who rely on ridesharing to pay their bills and invest in their communities," Uber Chicago's general manager Chris Taylor said in a statement.

During an interview with Illinois Public Radio last week, Taylor said the state ride-sharing bills were intended to prevent competition with the taxi industry.

"At Uber, safety is our No. 1 priority and we are all for common-sense regulation that ensures that safe rides are provided and allows consumer choice and allows for competition," Taylor said last Wednesday. "But the problem is that this bill crosses over that threshold, and it's really not about common sense or safety. It's about protecting a taxi monopoly that hasn't had to face competition in decades."

"This legislation is going to make it incredibly hard for us to grow, and it is really designed to kick us out," he added. "I can't say exactly what's going to happen if the governor signs the bill, but it's designed to prevent us from growing. It's designed to prevent drivers from earning a good wage, and that's just not something we support."

That interview came a day after Uber announced it had hired David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, to become the firm's senior vice president of policy and strategy, starting next month. Plouffe will head up what Uber calls a national "campaign" against "the Big Taxi cartel."

"Our roots are technology, not politics, writing code and rolling out transportation systems," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a blog post on the company's website. "The result is that not enough people here in America and around the world know our story, our mission, and the positive impact we’re having. Uber has been in a campaign but hasn’t been running one. That is changing now."

Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who previously called on Quinn to veto the ride-sharing bill, issued a statement last week in response to Uber's new hire.

“David Plouffe’s first order of business should be to encourage Governor Pat Quinn to veto the anti-ride sharing bill pending right here in President Obama’s home state," Rauner said. "Ride-sharing companies like Uber are exactly the type of innovative companies Illinois should be welcoming and recruiting - I know it and the President’s top people know it. Pat Quinn should know it too.”

In response to Quinn's veto of the measure today, Rauner's campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf added, “One month after Bruce urged Governor Quinn to veto the anti-ridesharing legislation Pat Quinn finally did the right thing."

"It’s too bad that Pat Quinn refused to follow Bruce’s lead on term limits and getting rid of the Quinn-Madigan tax hike," Schrimpf said.

The taxicab industry, meanwhile, fired back last week at Uber's claims that the state regulations would have hurt its drivers and business. 

"Frankly, the bill will not even impact most of their drivers," Mara Georges, spokeswoman for the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, which represents the taxicab industry, told Progress Illinois last week. Georges said ride-sharing companies have told the association that between 80 percent to 90 percent of their drivers work less than 20 hours per week. 

"So I can't imagine why they would say things like it's designed to kick us out or prevent us from growing," she added. "The taxi industry welcomes competition. It certainly understands the need for innovation and works with companies like Uber when they dispatch to licensed taxicabs. The bill is much more about consumer safety than it is about anything else."

Melissa Callahan, a cab driver in Chicago, described the local relationship between ride-sharing firms, particularly Uber, and the taxi industry as an "all out war." She said ride-sharing services have "diluted the passenger base" for her and other taxi drivers in the city, who already have "very low" wages and often struggle to makes ends meet.

"I think that probably more and more cab drivers will leave the industry," she said. "It doesn't make sense to stay in this industry if you can't make money doing it, or [if you] make extremely low wages ... There's no incentive. I see ridesharing becoming the method for transportation [in the city], that is unless there are some serious changes made with (regulations and) the medallion system that's in place right now. That's a huge burden [for drivers]. If these things are addressed, I think there could be a different situation. But right now, it's just too big of a mess to imagine that there could be some sort of merger between the taxi business and the ride-sharing companies. They're at war. 

"We need to make sure that the people who are driving taxis are making a living, and they're able to continue doing this," Callahan added. "There is always going to be a need for taxi service. Technology is not perfect. And when that technology is not available and people still need transportation, it's not going to be there."

The Chicago City Council, meanwhile, passed its own regulations on ride-sharing companies in May. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement today after Quinn vetoed the state ride-sharing legislation.

I want to thank Governor Quinn for his thoughtful approach to regulating an emerging industry so that new transportation options can flourish in Chicago while consumers are ensured a safe and reliable experience. Beginning next week, the City will implement the commonsense ordinance that passed City Council in May so that rideshare is no longer operating in a regulatory vacuum.

The city of Chicago ordinance includes a number of safety regulations and oversight measures for the ride-sharing industry and creates a new "transportation network provider" license for ride-sharing firms. The new license comes with stricter requirements for service providers that have company-wide driver averages of more than 20 hours per week, including a mandate that drivers also obtain public chauffeur licenses. 

In his interview with Illinois Public Radio, Taylor said that while the city of Chicago ordinance "does overstep" in some areas, "That's a bill Uber can work with."

But Georges said the city measure does not go far enough.

"I would argue, under the city's ordinance, no ride-share drivers will have to get chauffeur's licenses, because these companies are in business to make money, and so they'll manage the hours," she said. "They'll make sure that on a company-wide basis the drivers' hours stay under the threshold."

Stay tuned.

Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

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