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Uber app

The Uber smartphone app displays cars available for a pickup in downtown Manhattan.

Associated Press

A bill that would regulate transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft at the state level and preempt local legislation advanced in the Wisconsin Legislature Tuesday, passing 79-19 in the Assembly, moving next to the Senate.

The vote comes two weeks after the Madison City Council approved its own, much stricter regulations of TNCs — regulations this law will negate.

"(It's) exactly what we predicted was going to happen and Madison ended up losing," said Ald. Scott Resnick, who pushed for somewhat less stringent regulations than Mayor Paul Soglin at the local level. "I am not in support of the bipartisan effort that was conducted by the state, but this course of action was predicted months ago."

Madison’s ordinance requires TNCs to operate 24/7, cover the entire city and carry a certain level of insurance. It also requires permitting and vehicle inspections for drivers and prohibits surge pricing, a model that increases fares during high demand.

The bipartisan state legislation, meanwhile, allows for surge pricing and does not have any of the same requirements for citywide coverage or hours of operation. It requires TNCs to pay a $5,000 licensing fee, carry $1 million in insurance when a driver is engaged in services and conduct background checks on drivers. It also requires a policy of nondiscrimination based on aspects like destination, race, sexual orientation or disability.

Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, a co-author, said in a press conference Tuesday that by setting a statewide standard there’s certainty for drivers and passengers crossing municipal borders and confidence that safety standards are in place no matter what municipality they’re in.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said where he lives there aren't really ride-sharing or taxi services.

"I look at this as not just a positive for letting the marketplace solve problems but really helping people who want to get a ride who don’t have a car who live in a rural area," Vos said.

Critics, however, take issue with the lack of a requirement for accessibility for people with disabilities and the necessity to use a credit or debit card to use the service.

August said they don't want a lot of cash flying around and that TNCs are based electronically with apps.

“If someone has the app on their smart phone, they’re certainly going to have access to pay with electronic means,” August said.

Some also view the legislation as detrimental to the taxi industry and other transit companies.

Wisconsin Association of Taxi Cab Owners lobbyist Gary Goyke and vice president of Milwaukee-based Transit Express John Doherty said during a press conference they will fight the legislation, but don’t have the same resources as Uber does.

“This is a battle of David and Goliath and we are the Davids of the room,” Doherty said.

Milwaukee also has local legislation in place to regulate TNCs that this legislation would preempt. During the session, representatives from Madison and Milwaukee attempted and failed to amend the bill to allow existing city ordinances to remain in place.

Madison City Council member and Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said the city of Madison has a system that’s working.

“This undercuts that,” she said during debate.

Capital Times reporter Jessie Opoien contributed to this report.

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