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May 04, 2016

Pennsylvania House committee advances legislation that would legalize Uber, Lyft in Philly

The Consumer Affairs Committee overwhelmingly passes ride-sharing bill

Government Transportation
Carroll - Uber Lyft Taxi Showdown Thom Carroll, File/PhillyVoice

An UberX driver keeps his Uber sticker in his car console when driving in Philly.

A Pennsylvania House committee voted Wednesday to advance legislation that establishes a framework to permanently legalize popular ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The Consumer Affairs Committee voted, 23-2, to approve Senate Bill 984, which would effectively grant Uber and Lyft permanent licenses to operate throughout all 67 Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia. The legislation now moves to the full House. 

Uber and Lyft have been operating on temporary licenses everywhere but in the Philadelphia, where they have defied the Philadelphia Parking Authority by operating without any license at all. The PPA, charged with regulating taxi companies and ride-sharing services in the city, has responded by impounding vehicles driven by Uber and Lyft drivers. 

But the legislation puts the ride-sharing companies on a path to operate legally in Philadelphia. 

Uber and Lyft officials cheered its passage Wednesday, though they also expressed some concerns with its current form. 

“Pennsylvania deserves a permanent ride-sharing solution that provides clarity for drivers and passenger across the state," Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson said. "While there are still aspects of the current bill we are concerned with, we are glad it is moving through the legislative process and look forward to continuing the public discussion about the benefits rides-haring brings to people in Pennsylvania." 

Uber spokesman Craig Ewer praised state Rep. Bob Godshall, chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee, for overseeing talks between stakeholders, which included the PPA and ride-sharing companies.

"While we still have serious concerns on some key outstanding issues, we look forward working with House members in the weeks ahead to resolve those concerns and establish a permanent, statewide home for ride-sharing in the Commonwealth," Ewer said in a statement. "We will continue to make sure our riders and drivers are engaged so we can finally pass comprehensive ride-sharing legislation in Harrisburg."

The PPA is pleased the bill is making progress, spokesman Martin O'Rourke said.

"This is the result of numerous meetings and discussions in the last two or three weeks," O'Rourke said. "It's a good piece of compromised legislation that seems to accomplish the goal of providing a much-needed service while ensuring safety."

The bill is an amended version of legislation overwhelmingly passed last November by the Senate.

The bill mandates ride-sharing companies perform background checks on potential drivers, maintain records of vehicles used by drivers and carry a minimum level of car insurance, among other requirements. Both Uber and Lyft already incorporate some of these safety requirements into their own company policies.