No two states are the same. What passes for polite in New England may be considered downright abrasive in the Pacific Northwest. What a Californian finds politically correct, a midwesterner might find utterly confusing.

It is no surprise, then, that each state legislature has its own eccentricities that reflect the region and culture in which it is situated – particularly when it comes to the delicate task of amending, or outright killing, legislation.

For this reason, deciphering what exactly the Hawaii Legislature is doing with its piece of ridesharing legislation, S.B. 1280, is no easy feat. Consider that, in its current form, the bill has an effective date of July 1, 2112, and that it just passed the House Finance Committee unanimously.

Now, one of two things could be going on here: either Hawaii really wants to ensure that both insurers and transportation network companies truly have ample time to conform to the new regulatory standards, or something else entirely is transpiring behind the scenes. My bet is on the latter.

A national compromise between TNCs and insurers, reached in March, has provided model ridesharing language for state legislatures across the nation. Yet, Hawaii, like other states, has been working on its own piece of ridesharing legislation since session began at the beginning of the year. Changing the expectations and the objectives of legislators so far into the legislative process is no easy feat.

To give themselves time to embrace the national compromise, Hawaii legislators have grafted the tongue-in-cheek “defective date” into S.B. 1280 to allow it to continue through the process, while simultaneously telegraphing to all parties that the current legislation is a work in progress. Thus, in spite of the fact that insurers and TNCs lined up on opposite sides of S.B. 1280 when it was it last appeared in committee April 7, it was with the certain knowledge that the bill is bound to be amended.

What we at R Street are hearing is that S.B. 1280 will pass out of the House in the coming weeks and returned to the Senate for concurrence. Once there, instead of proceeding to a floor vote for referral to the governor’s desk, the bill will likely be referred to a conference committee, where it will take on a form similar to the national compromise.

While any number of factors could lead the ridesharing legislation down a different route, the Hawaii experience is illustrative of the broader point that state legislative affairs demand a high degree of sensitivity to regional practice. A “defective date” that would read as a poison pill in another state legislature sends an entirely different signal in Honolulu.

For the sake of rideshare drivers and customers, let’s hope that this mainlander read the signals correctly.

Featured Publications