The bill, which passed the House of Representatives in a 96-13 vote on Wednesday, creates a new category of “transportation network companies” that would cover Uber and other similar companies. But Uber and its allies in the legislature had issues with the final draft, saying it treated the service too much like a cab company.
The state Public Service Commission is allowing Uber to operate through July after initially issuing cease-and-desist orders against the company. However, the stay is based upon lawmakers crafting new regulations that would cover the ridesharing company. Uber maintains it is not a taxi service but only uses a smartphone app to connect customers with potential drivers.
“We really think that this is something that will be beneficial for our state,” House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee chair Bill Sandifer, R-Seneca, said on the floor.
The bill that passed the House is slightly different than a version which sits in the Senate Transportation Committee. It would require Uber to insure drivers for under a $150,000/$300,000/$150,000 (payout per person injured/total payout/property damage) from the time they go on-duty until they finish.
Sandifer said the requirements are similar to coverage traditional taxis are required to offer. Cab companies have opposed Uber’s presence in South Carolina, frequently citing the lack of insurance as one area they believe Uber has an unfair advantage.
But some of Uber’s supporters questioned why legislators were trying to regulate an industry that was doing well without it. State Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Townville, questioned why the state was requiring Uber to have signage on its cars (which it does not currently use) and why it was limiting what cars the company could use.
“If’ we’re going to allow Uber to continue to operate and then we’re going to make them do business exactly the same way as a taxi company, what are we really accomplishing here?” he asked on the House floor.
State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, filed separate legislation that did not have the extensive regulations. He shared the same concerns but ended up supporting the bill with conditions. “I think it’s really important that the General Assembly deal with this and produce some legislation,” he said. “And take this out of the hands of some regulators that I think were being over-burdensome.”
State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, said he believes there is enough support in the Senate to pass a bill, but said insurance and other regulations still need to be settled before it reaches the floor.
The Public Service Commission’s current license for Reiser, LLC, will expire at the end of June. Legislative leaders all pledge they will have a law in place before that happens.