Georgia’s war on Uber and other rideshare services

Brandon Howell Contributor, Georgia Tipsheet
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You’d think Georgia had gone full California or something. At least that’s my thought after reading recently introduced legislation in that would take a sledgehammer to Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services in the state.

What’s worse about H.B. 907 is that it’s being pushed by Republicans, two of them, and one Democrat.

As with other attempts to corral rideshare apps in other states and municipalities, the legislation has a lot more to do with protectionism at the behest of the taxi lobby.

Georgia is the first conservative state to mount such an effort, which is what makes it particularly troubling.

The push comes as taxi companies in the state, specifically Atlanta, have declared war on rideshare apps, demanding they comply with the same regulations they have for years. Not rolling back the steep regulations they face themselves, mind you, but clamping that hammer down on others.

The proposed legislation would do so by imposing mass fines and oversight on rideshare companies.

All “transportation referral service providers” will be mandated to register with the state government; otherwise the fine clocks in at $50,000. The drivers would be forced to follow the same set of guidelines as their traditional counterparts, and the fare restrictions under the bill would wipe out the promotions, price specials, and, yes, price surging, that Uber is known to be fond of.

A bigger kick to the gut comes with what H.B. 907 says about using phones to request rides:

“The use of Internet or cellular telephone software to calculate rates shall not be permitted unless such software companies complies with and conforms to the weights and measures standards of the local government that licenses such taxi service.”

In other words, beneath the gobbledygook of leveling the playing field, this is the death knell of competition and transportation innovation.

Rideshares like Uber and Lyft have pushed the envelope and adapted to new technologies in a way that makes better sense for employer, worker, and consumer. It makes no sense to shut out that innovation for the sake of saving a dated model, and that’s precisely what H.B. 907 would do in its current form.

In Georgia, the backlash has come swiftly.

Conservatives have loudly voiced opposition, and two of the initial four GOPers backing the bill have removed their names.

There are risks on both political and policy fronts. It being an election year, doing this to a service as widely used as Uber is an unwise game to play, not to mention an unnecessary distraction.

This year is the chance for Republicans in Georgia to draw a crystal-clear contrast with Democrats looking to revive themselves from the political graveyard. Our efforts would be better-spent on a long-term message of economic growth and opportunity by way of fiscally conservative, government-limiting policies, not sideshow distractions that befit one special interest in the market.

Government isn’t a tool to to keep outdated models in place. It should be doing the opposite.

The Peach State push follows similar efforts in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Washington.

We’re Georgia; do we really want to be lumped in with that kind of big government crowd?

Conservative legislation would de-regulate cab companies, not stifle innovation as its taking off. A proper alternative, then, would be easing the restrictions they face and not imposing them across the board. Here’s to that, or to a revised version that truly “levels the playing field” in a conservative fashion, sans more government.

Brandon Howell is an account director at Hynes Communications and contributor to the Peach State political blog Georgia Tipsheet. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonDHowell.