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Rhode Island passes ride-hailing bill to regulate Uber, Lyft

Rhode Island passes ride-hailing bill to regulate Uber, Lyft. 2013 (WJAR)

Rhode Island's legislature has passed a bill to legalize and regulate ride-hailing app companies such as Uber.

The legislation was among dozens of bills approved during an all-night session that ended Saturday.

"It was a huge amount of negotiation on this," said House Majority Whip John Edwards, a Tiverton Democrat who introduced a more onerous bill several months ago that Uber strongly opposed.

The bill passed early Saturday would put Uber, Lyft and similar companies under the oversight of the state's public utilities commission, require driver background checks, set minimum insurance requirements and establish an annual $30,000 permit for companies with at least 200 drivers. Smaller companies would pay lower fees depending on how many drivers they employ.

Negotiations on the legislation between the House and Senate continued until dawn Saturday. Lawmakers dropped a driver fingerprinting requirement that Uber opposed. Edwards said the governor's office also opposed the fingerprinting because it could discriminate against racial minorities.

Edwards said he is pleased with the compromise, especially a provision that makes clear that "if you get into one of these cars, you're going to have insurance."

Also pleased is Uber, which issued a statement thanking lawmakers "for passing statewide regulations that create a more permanent home for ridesharing in the Ocean State."

Lawmakers appeased traditional taxi operators concerned about unfair competition by passing a separate bill that drops an assessment they had to pay. And a provision in next year's budget, which also passed Saturday, requires companies such as Uber and Lyft to pay sales taxes.

The ride-hailing bill now moves to Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, whose administration helped craft it and was involved in the negotiations.

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