A state Senate panel has approved the first step in making the ridesharing service Uber officially legal in South Carolina.
Earlier this year, the Public Service Commission gave the company permission to operate statewide until June. In the meantime, the commission hoped state lawmakers would create new permanent regulations that could cover Uber and exempt it from regulations traditional taxi companies must face.
The measure that advanced Tuesday would create a new type of business called a “transportation network company” (TNC). Uber allows Smartphone users to arrange for a ride from a nearby driver through an app. Company officials say Uber is not a traditional taxi business, as it only connects passengers with drivers and does not own or operate the cars.
Some of the conditions set by senators on Tuesday would require any TNCs to get a state permit, post an explanation of its rates, and include a photo and license plate number of the Uber driver. Drivers would also be required to carry automotive liability insurance.
The bill’s sponsor said he preferred fewer regulations, but agreed follow the Public Service Commission’s wishes. “This gives folks more choice in what kind of services they want to use when they need a ride,” State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, said. “If one individual wants to give another individual a ride and they agree on a price, why should government get in the way?”
The Senate Transportation Committee will now take up the bill, possibly as soon as next week.
Taxi companies complain Uber gets an unfair advantage by not following the same regulations as them. Capitol City Cab Company general manager Jayne Mallory Clark said municipalities set what rates taxis can charge passengers and also require the company to buy insurance for each car.
“All of our drivers have to have SLED checks, drug tests, and we do our own criminal background check,” Clark said, questioning whether Uber did the same for their recruits.
Bryant said he believes there is enough support in the Senate to pass the bill, but said insurance still needs to be settled before it reaches the floor.