The state Senate approved a bill on a voice vote Tuesday that would create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft and prohibit local governments from enacting their own regulations.
The state Assembly approved the bill last week, and it now moves to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. Spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Walker will evaluate the bill.
In Madison — where the City Council last month approved an ordinance revision regulating ride-hailing services — officials said statewide rules for transportation network companies do not make sense and there should be control at the local level.
“It’s a sad mistake,” Mayor Paul Soglin said. “It jeopardizes regular, viable taxi service 24 hours a day, seven days a week when real people need it in exchange for sharp shooters to come in here, work the weekends and sporting events, risking full-time viable jobs, risking regular reliable service for passengers.”
“Local control makes sense because cities are very different,” said Ald. Chris Schmidt, District 11.
Soglin said it’s yet to be determined whether the city will take any legal action against the bill.
The bill’s authors said it would provide a standard set of rules for companies to follow and that companies such as Uber and Lyft could be prompted to move into more Wisconsin cities and jump-start job growth.
State Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said the statewide regulations that would be imposed are meant to unify a patchwork of standards that are spread across Wisconsin. Enacting standard regulatory rules will ensure passengers can be more confident with ride-hailing services and drivers will understand what is required by law, August said.
“I think it makes more sense to have statewide regulations, because these companies are going to pop up across the state,” August said.
None of the bill’s authors represent areas where the services currently operate.
Under the bill, companies would have to purchase a $5,000 state license, conduct driver background checks and maintain liability insurance. Drivers would be prohibited from discriminating against passengers based on their race, religion, sex or disability.
Lyft spokeswoman Mary Caroline Pruitt said, “We applaud state leaders for finding a way forward that prioritizes public safety while preserving a future for innovative transportation options across the state.”
Lauren Altmin of Uber said, “Wisconsin legislators understand the benefits that Uber can bring to communities — from reduced DUIs to expanded transportation choices and broad economic opportunities.”
Madison’s City Council approved an ordinance revision on March 31 that creates a legal way for the companies to operate, but under many of the same regulations that cab companies must abide by.
The city’s ordinance has stricter regulations than the state bill. The city requires companies to provide insurance, as well as to provide 24-hour continuous service, have vehicle inspections and provide service throughout the city, and prohibits higher prices during peak demand times.
As a result of the bill, Gary Poulson, chairman of the city’s Transit and Parking Commission, said he believes there will be a surge of people essentially becoming cab companies.
“If all individuals have to do is provide $5,000 for a state license and get the requisite insurance and get a vehicle inspected, they could just basically become a cab company of one,” Poulson said.
State Journal reporter Jeff Glaze and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. An earlier version misspelled the last name of Gary Poulson, chairman of the city's Transit and Parking Commission.]