Louisiana may soon join the more than 40 states that have adopted some kind of statewide ridesharing rules, under legislation that would pre-empt parish and local governments from setting regulations and taxes on transportation network companies.

Sponsored by state House Transportation Committee Chairman Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, H.B. 527 would require TNCs to register with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and to charge a “local assessment fee” equal to 1 percent of each “gross trip fare.” The 1 percent fee would be sent to local governments from whence rides originated, and part also would be collected by the state to administer the permitting process.

TNCs would be required, through their apps, to display the driver’s picture and license plate before the passenger enters the vehicle. The TNC would also be required to transmit an electronic receipt of the trip.

The legislation also imposes minimum requirements for drivers. The state would ban from working as TNC drivers all sex offenders, felons for up to seven years after their conviction and those convicted of an offense involving drugs or alcohol. The legislation also requires TNCs to adhere to all state anti-discrimination laws and laws providing for the transport of service animals. The law bans drivers from using drugs or alcohol while on duty and requires TNCs to post the policy on their website and provide a means for reporting violations.

In exchange for these requirements, the state would bar local governments and other authorities (including airports) from imposing their own requirements or imposing additional fees. Airports would be permitted to impose only those fees that taxi drivers already pay. Finally, the statute would clarify that TNCs are not taxi operators and are not bound by the taxis code of regulations.

Understandably, the proposal isn’t being received kindly by some in local government:

New Orleans Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who authored the city’s ordinance regulating ride-hailing services, said just a quick overview of the proposed law showed it fell short of the city’s ordinance in a number of ways. It has fewer insurance requirements, less stringent background checks, does not require random drug tests or drug tests after crashes and does not prohibit surge pricing in emergencies.

The proposed state law also does not include prohibitions on discrimination in pick-ups and drop-offs and would not require the ride-hailing services to provide data that could be used to verify whether such discrimination is occurring, something that is including in the city ordinance.

“Why would you create a law that was less protective when they have already agreed to operate under our city’s law which is more protective?” Guidry asked.

Of course, ridesharing companies already operate under a patchwork of rules and regulations. For example, three of the largest parishes in the metro New Orleans area—Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany—each has its own ridesharing ordinance, which differ from one another in details. Theoretically, it is possible to drive through all three parishes within an hour, depending on traffic. It doesn’t make sense literally to have to navigate that maze of regulatory regimes over such a short distance.

The Legislature should unleash the potential of the sharing economy statewide. It’s good for consumers and provides new opportunities for drivers to make ends meet.

Image by Ionut Catalin Parvu

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