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Arizona Senate sides with ridesharing services Uber, Lyft

PHOENIX — Calling Uber a cutting-edge concept, the Arizona Senate on
Tuesday gave initial approval to a bill that exempts ride-share companies from
the same regulations that traditional taxi and limo companies have.

The amended bill exempts rideshare companies from the commercial insurance
requirement that affects traditional taxi, limo and livery companies by not
requiring drivers be insured at all times on the job. It also would not require
rideshare drivers be drug tested. It would require that Uber insure its drivers
with $1 million policies.

Uber currently insures drivers with $1 million policies, but only from the time
the driver accepts a pickup to the time the driver drops off the passenger.

That means a driver who is working on the road but has not yet received a
request for a ride is not insured by the company unless the driver’s personal
insurance denies the claim, in which case Uber provides its contingent policy.

The issue became especially heated nationwide after a 6-year-old girl was
killed in a crosswalk by a driver logged into the Uber app in San Francisco on
New Year’s Eve. The girl’s family contends Uber is financially responsible
because the driver was waiting for customers. Uber says it isn’t liable because
no passengers were in the car.

The vote comes after weeks of aggressive media campaigns by Uber, which says it
shouldn’t be subject to the same regulations as cabs because they do not pick up
people from the street, but rather members of the service who request a driver.

“We could be old school and never make changes. … Or we could be cutting
edge as a state and implement this model in the state of Arizona,” Sen. Robert
Meza, D-Phoenix, said.

The voice vote came after a lengthy debate surrounding two major amendments to
the bill. One, by Sen. John McComish, R-Ahwatukee, would have required rideshare
companies to provide insurance coverage at all times that a driver is on the job
but would give the companies different options as to how to purchase that
insurance. The amendment would require Uber to conduct drug tests and criminal
and driver’s license background checks.

“The reality is that these new guys are billion dollar corporations that have
entered the Arizona marketplace that basically broke the rules and now they want
special legislation,” McComish said.

But members voted down his amendment and adopted one by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake
Havasu City.

Her amendment would not require pre-employment drug tests but would require
Uber and others to conduct drug tests if a passenger complained that a driver
may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on a ride.

“That’s what I call teeth,” Ward said.

The Ward amendment also would notably require that insurance payouts in the
case of an accident go to either the repair shop or the car lien holder instead
of the driver.

The Senate must still cast a roll-call vote.


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