Ride-hailing services, long mired in legal ambiguity as lawmakers struggled to define them, achieved a degree of legislative recognition Wednesday as Michigan’s House approved a package that would establish state standards for regulation.
The package, consisting of five individual bills, takes steps to officially define ride-hailing, set insurance standards for drivers and companies, and limit the authority of local governments to alter policy.
The bills come as the most recent development in a nationwide trend of regulation and cooperation with ride-hailing companies. In January, Boston entered into a unique collaboration with Uber, agreeing to use ride-monitoring data to assess traffic congestion issues. Virginia followed suit in February, when Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation legalizing Uber and Lyft across the state.
Although the Michigan House passed each of Wednesday’s bills with a majority of at least 70 votes, the decisions were far from unanimous across the body of 110 representatives. Some felt that the bills were unfairly advantageous to ride-hailing companies, insisting that Uber and Lyft should be regulated in the same manner as taxi services, which face strict guidelines.
“Are we creating a level playing field, or are we actually just providing incentives for one or two businesses that use a certain kind of technology?” asked state Rep. Sam Singh, the Democratic minority floor leader from East Lansing.
Others felt that the bill was catered too specifically to Uber and Lyft, and would inhibit similar platforms from attempting to break into the Michigan market.
“We have defined it so narrowly it hurts the person who wants to get into this model. We’ve almost kind of locked it up for the two big guys,” said state Rep. Leslie Love, a Detroit Democrat. “That’s not free-market.”
Local governments have also opposed the package, favoring Senate bills that would lend more authority to city and county legislative bodies. Love went on to say that passing the House bill was telling municipalities “you have no voice.”
Republicans have countered that the laws are about individual empowerment and entrepreneurship.
Uber and Lyft, which supported the bill, echoed this sentiment.