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Uber, Lyft Expansion Faces Pushback In Louisiana Senate Committee

Mark Warner / FLICKR Creative Commons

A bill that would make Uber and Lyft available across Louisiana stalled in a Senate Judiciary committee Tuesday. 

Speaker of the House Taylor Barras’ (R-New Iberia) bill would put the state in charge of regulating ride sharing services, instead of local governments.

“We have 44 other states that have a consistent statewide policy as it relates to transportation network companies,” explains Barras.

The way it works right now, Uber and Lyft have to get approval from individual parishes or cities in order to operate. Nick Juliano, a public affairs manager for Uber, says that results in different policies and regulations from city to city. This bill would fix that.

“No matter where you are in the state of Louisiana," he says, "if you’re a rider, you can get a ride.  If you’re a driver, you can make money on the Uber platform from border to border.”

Gwendolyn Wallace is an Uber driver in New Orleans. She says the more places she can drive, the more money she can make.

“If I bring a rider to an area outside of New Orleans right now, I have to drive all the way back empty,” explains Wallace.

Sen. Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) says he wants to see ridesharing companies expand in Louisiana and supports their drivers making more money, but he believes they should be under the same regulations as cab companies.

“Let’s face it," he says, "the people are who driving for Uber and Lyft are nothing more than glorified cab drivers. So unless you can show me that there’s something that distinguishes you from cabs, I think it needs to be a level playing field.”

Uber and Lyft drivers, for instance, don’t have to go through the same background checks as cab drivers.

Martiny says with this bill, “we are basically saying, you do the same thing as those cab drivers over there, but they’ve got to do more, and they’ve got to put up more money, and they’ve got to go through more testing.”

Not confident the bill had the support needed to pass, Barras pulled it from the committee. It remains to be seen if the measure will get another shot this session.