MADISON — Wisconsin lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow for state regulation of ride-sharing services including Uber and Lyft.

The Assembly approved the measure Tuesday on a 79-19 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate.

“Other states are going to look to this bill and say that’s how you get this done, that’s how you protect consumers,” said one of the bill’s main authors, Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva.

Regulating companies such as Uber and Lyft, which connect pedestrians with private drivers through a smartphone app, has become a hot topic as they’ve increased in popularity and compete with taxi and limo companies. The bill has sparked bitter debate between ride-sharing proponents and Wisconsin taxi companies.

Under the measure, the companies would have to purchase a $5,000 license, conduct driver background checks and maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. The proposal would also prohibit drivers from discriminating against passengers because of race, religion, sex or disability.

Cory Mason, D-Racine, one of the bill’s authors, said comparing the ride-sharing companies to traditional taxi cab companies is like comparing cellphones to landlines or automobiles to horse and buggies.

“This is the future. It’s coming. It’s here,” Mason said.

The bill has sparked debate between ride-hailing proponents and Wisconsin taxi companies.

John Doherty, vice president of Transit Express, a Milwaukee-based charter transportation company, in a press conference Tuesday said the measure could be unfair to those who don’t have credit cards as they would not be able to pay with cash. Doherty also said he was frustrated that the bill would eliminate existing local ordinances.

He and other representatives of taxi cab and limousine companies across the state said they were not contacted about the bill. And they said they didn’t have the resources to put forth the same lobbying effort ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft would in deciding the matter.

“This is a battle of David and Goliath and we are the Davids in the room,” Doherty said.

Democratic representatives from Madison and Milwaukee tried in vain to amend the bill to preserve local ordinances in those cities.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said the measure was rushed and did not take into consideration existing ordinances in Madison.

“If you think this is a progressive piece of legislation, you are sorely mistaken,” Taylor said.


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