A bill to set up a statewide regulation framework for Uber, Lyft and similar transportation network companies passed the Alabama Senate today.
Uber and Lyft have advocated for the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. It has bipartisan support, including an endorsement by Gov. Kay Ivey and passed the Senate by a vote of 28-0.
Alabama is one of only six states with no statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies, advocates for the bill say. Fifteen Alabama cities license and regulate ride-sharing companies. But uniform regulations are needed to expand the availability across the state, supporters of the bill said.
"Those that want to have ride-share can have ride-share in the state of Alabama, with a unified law that will allow all municipalities to play on a level playing field," Singleton said.
The statewide regulations would replace the city regulations. Cities could not charge the companies a tax or license fee. Municipalities could choose not to allow transportation network companies to originate rides within their city limits.
Under Singleton's bill, transportation network companies would have to obtain a permit from the Public Service Commission. They would collect a 1 percent fee on each fare that would go to the PSC. The PSC could keep up to 50 percent of that money to cover the cost of regulation and would distribute the rest back to cities and counties based on where rides originate.
Transportation network companies would have to do criminal and driving history background checks on driver applicants, or have a third party do so.
Singleton said that besides expanding transportation options for riders, the bill would create employment opportunities for drivers. For example, he said some people in his mostly rural district go to Tuscaloosa to work as drivers but can't originate rides in their home town or county. That would change under his bill.
"If you have a car, if you have insurance and a good driving record, you basically have a job that you are your own boss," Singleton said.
Singleton's bill moves to the House, where the sponsor is Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook.
Evangeline George, a spokeswoman for Uber, issued a statement about the bill passing the Senate today: "Forty-four states have given riders and drivers clarity with statewide ridesharing frameworks, and we look forward to the House of Representatives taking the next step to bring the same to Alabama."
The Alabama cities that regulate transportation network companies now include Auburn, Birmingham, Daphne, Gardendale, Gulf Shores, Homewood, Hoover, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Mountain Brook, Pelham, Tuscaloosa, Trussville and Vestavia Hills.