GUEST POST: No Strings For UBER

 

by Norma Duffy

Ms. Duffy is lifelong resident of Beaverhead County, a businesswoman, farmer, public advocate, and single mother who has no tolerance for bad politics-as-usual interfering with our future as Montanans. Follow her on Twitter @Ilikewoods

(Second in a series of Three)

Uber argues that as a technology company, it is not subject to laws regulating public transit like other transportation providers,  who have to follow ADA rules. UBER doesn’t want to Fingerprint its drivers, or do background checks. Instead of getting along with others… Uber likes running headlong into cities, no matter the consequences.  Uber doesn’t feel, any standard local laws should apply to them…. which generally entails, getting into fights with regulated taxi services and city halls throughout America, once they decide to move in …

Uber Somehow also likes being partners at ALEC symposiums. Hypothetically, that might have made them privy to ALEC concepts? They haven’t joined ALEC yet, and say they won’t, but are happy to talk in front of ALEC supporters about their business, and happily be a part of ALEC meetings.

Lately, UBER decided to try something new. Change their ways of doing business…UBER is now changing laws in states, bypassing cities and counties all together, with preemption snippets instead of going locally…. The Idea is to bypass local laws. And since last December ALEC has promised to write Bills for Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

So Uber…Is running into state legislatures everywhere, using an army of UBER Lobbyists, waving around donations for campaigns, and paid loyalty… its the new UBER Business model. Uber has an army of at least 161 lobbyists around the country. Two have been in Montana since the Legislative session started in 2015. One of them is Chuck Denowh, Rick Hill’s losing gubernatorial campaign manager, and the former Exec. Dir. of Montana Republican Party( he is also supposed to run the Montana UBER Branch after July 1, 2015) . The other is named Bryce Bennett ( No, not our Democrat Legislator Bryce Bennett, No relation). He comes from the Uber company……

Maybe hanging with ALEC, UBER suddenly learned about using preemption laws? We all know it wasn’t osmosis…. right? Now UBER Lobbyists are often helping legislators enact laws by disseminating bills of their own design – Bills that stop cities and counties from writing ordinances to protect the safety of their citizens against a prevailing and upward moving account of accumulated sins, Uber’s unprofessional drivers cause throughout the country.

Stories of Uber  in the News, all over the USA, about UBER Drivers raping women customers. price gouging customers during emergencies, running over and killing little children, UBER running away from insurance claims in accidents, and trying repetitively to stick the driver’s personal insurance with the bill…. Not protecting the women they do hire, and nationally known for not hiring very many women. The stories about UN refusing to partner with them on women issues… all true.

Uber arguing it’s not responsible for any of the above mentioned horror stories is also a complete farce. The fact is not one customer could have been harmed if Uber didn’t send their drivers into areas to pick up passengers in the first place. Uber basically enabled all their drivers misdeeds.

Then there is the Uber phone APP! The APP Uber made and uses, has been exploited by hackers at least twice so far, stealing Driver info and customers numbers that end up for sale on the “Dark Web.” And lastly the drivers believe the UBER business model treats them more like employees, than Independent Contractors, You have a dress code , a mandatory minimum hours of work, a driver must do, a code of conduct that is fairly rigid, so over 600 drivers are currently suing them and a company a lot like UBER called LYFT in the ninth circuit

So how do I explain what happened to taxi companies in Montana? Should I explain, that we’re blindsided by our own Democratic and Republican state officials wanting a Uber Campaign donation? Looks like it to me! At least two PSC regulators have also been working with UBER behind closed doors, and basically lobbying for UBER in committee hearings since the session started. All to change laws to deregulate Uber but not Taxi’s….

All the actors writing these bills failed to talk to taxi companies first, once we came and explained to the committees what taxi companies have to go through. they shut every bill down. The bills that were requested by Legislators and pushed by the PSC…. Didn’t want to hear our stories. They neglected to include taxi businesses to the table of negotiation purposely.

Whats the old saying ,”If your not invited to the table, it is because you’re the meal?”

Let me give you a timeline of events for these Uber Bills. And the stories of proponents who who spoke or represented these bills:

April 2014: Democratic legislator, Ellie Boldman Hill Smith HD90, requested the first request for a ridesharing bill. Since she was the requester of Bill HB267, She had to know that preemption was in HB267, that it would benifit Uber and LYFT….She was not only the original requester of the bill, but the sponsor.

December 5, 2014: Three other bills were dropped into the drafting Process here in Montana for Uber. HB 428 a bill to keep Uber out of Taxi territory, was requested by Democrat Margie McDonald HD51 on 12/05/15 ….Plus another Ms. McDonald bill called HJ16, an Interim study on ride-sharing where Taxi Companies finally get to help share in the rulemaking process for the next two years. Art Wittich requested a draft for Ubers Benefit on 12/ 05/ 15 . The bill would be called SB396, which would later be sponsored by Ed Buttery Is it because Art has some problems with getting bills through lately? He later stepped in to sponsor as well with Daniel Zolinkov on 3/25/2015.

December 12, 2014: Daniel Zolinkov’s bill that never made it to first Base. LC1971, first requested on 12/12/2014 died in the draft process.

January 30, 2015:Transportation hearing on HB 267. Ellie’s proposed bill completely deregulates Uber and sets them up in their own E class that can pretty much run all over our state licensed areas, otherwise known as anywhere in Montana. Taxi’s will still be forced to work under old PSC rules and regulations, the new E class will not. One of the proponents  PSC vice chair Travis Kavulla. Who says the PSC take no side in this issue, believes all the rules are antiquated…But he also believes Taxis are monopolies not the rules governing them. And as a PSC Commissioner he would ask that his Jurisdiction to administrate be strip from him regarding taxi services….. because Taxi businesses don’t bring the commission in enough money for PSC to work with them.

So much for your Public service Travis?

Proponent Uber continues to propagate their lies,that they are safe and fair. that they are not a transportation service but an App, Insurance Lobbyists tell the committee that HB267 in its current status does not protect private insurance holders, and there is no accountability for Uber to protect riders with their own insurance.

Taxi cab service say their license has value and if Uber comes in all the money they spent to get the Authority, will not mean the paper its printed on.

Taxi Businesses explain their knowledge of their  business, and licensed authority, and how the PSC has only two enforcement officers for the whole state, who can barely do their jobs.
Ellie Hill tells committee members in her closing comments she never heard of UBER until this hearing?? Really???Funniest part is in this particular Transportation hearing’s audio and video links, seemed to have disappeared. I found it after talking to the tech guys of the state site, who found it for me, and restored links.

February 13, 2015 HB 267 is tabled.

February 16, 2015 Margie McDonald Bills,Transportation hearing HB428 and HJR 16 both have to do with Ride-sharing and Uber. While HB428 is a good gesture for Cab companies, it doesn’t go far enough to protect Montana customers, and Taxi businesses just want a fair playing field. Competition doesn’t bother us.

Commissioner Bob Lake submits is a letter as an exhibit from Co-commissioner Travis Kavulla, saying that Taxi’s in Montana monopolize all of Montana which is patently false, That Taxi Business are “Notoriously” Bad businesses and the PSC would be burdened in writing up more applications for Uber like Businesses, if HB428 passes 1

Opponent Bob Lake of the PSC mirrors Kavulla’s last hearing testimony. Explaining they no longer wish to handle Taxi’s regulations because not enough money changes hands.

Of course Uber was there as well. HJ 16 is a great Idea and Taxi companies embrace it , so does the insurance companies. Uber says it will play along.

February 18, 2015 HB 428 is Tabled. HJ16 passes with only one dissenting vote, it goes on to become law on 4/14/2015

March 20, 2015  SB396 comes along, a transportation bill that ends up being shopped around Committees.

First committee: Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs. Nothing to do with transportation, but it gets concurred with the two new insurance amendments. The taxi businesses are pretty unhappy. The PSC is still pushing it as well. Now the bill has to go back to the House Transportation meeting on April 1, 2015, But it gets cancelled not because its “April Fools Day,” but the transportation Committee, didn’t like the first 2 Bills, and this bill wasn’t any better. The proponents jerked it off the Transportation committees schedule, and go shopping again.

April 15, 2015  Hearing on SB396. House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications. Again nothing to do with Transportation. By this time the Taxi Companies ask what’s up. and do a great job representing themselves. they have spent the last two weeks talking to their Legislators and passing on info on the Bill SB396. the Bill is Tabled.

April 16,2015 SB396 is silver bulleted to the floor By Rep. Daniel Zolinkov.

April 17, 2015  Bill passes second reading in House by a handful of votes.

April 20, 2015  Bill Passes

May 8, 2015  Signed by Governor Bullock.

My humble opinion, is we need to be cognizant of where we as citizens are standing. At each turn, we did our best as Montana Businesses to protect our riders… and we thought we won. I could understand the silver Bullet for the Water Compact, the Medicare expansion, but attacking homegrown Montana businesses and adding more regulation on cities and towns…. you just don’t see it coming until it’s too late.

 

 

 

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12 Comments on "GUEST POST: No Strings For UBER"

  1. As a former taxi driver and tow truck operator as well as a long haul semi-truck driver I think I know a tiny bit about commercial transportation. Uber/Lyft sound sexy but are truly a bad, dangerous idea. Professional drivers go through special training and are subject to background checks and drug testing and are required to be covered by liability insurance. Not so for unregulated ride sharing services. I hitchhiked a lot in my youth as well and my mother always worried about what kind of creep may pick me up-as it turned out, for good reason. Will Charlie Manson Jr. show up when you call for a ride? Call Uber and you might as well stand on the roadside holding up your thumb and a $50 bill. Maybe you’ll get where you wanted to go and maybe you’ll only get left for dead.

  2. Does ALEC seek out then promote uber disruptive operations ?
    A New Federalism?

  3. The amount of misinformation in this blog post is mind numbing.

    We first introduced a bill to eliminate the competitor’s veto for motor carriers and taxi cabs during the 2013 session. You can see the link here:

    http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0203W$BSRV.ActionQuery?P_SESS=20131&P_BLTP_BILL_TYP_CD=&P_BILL_NO=&P_BILL_DFT_NO=&P_CHPT_NO=&P_ENTY_ID_SEQ2=12457&P_SBJT_SBJ_CD=&P_ENTY_ID_SEQ=&Z_ACTION2=Find

    Rep. Knudsen carried it. None of us had heard of Uber in 2013.

    Despite the author’s rhetoric, I have never received any money from Uber and I doubt Commissioner Kavulla has either.

    The reason Senate Bill 396, sponsored by Senator Buttrey and co-sponsored by myself and others, passed this session with wide bipartisan support and was signed by our Governor, is because consumers in Montana have repeatedly asked us legislators for more choices in their transportation.

    The bill was supported by organizations like the Department of Justice and the Missoula City/County DUI Task Force because it is nearly impossible to get a taxi cab in certain urban areas during busy evening hours.

    The old law protects monopolies.

    The old law literally allows existing cab owners to veto the applications of new prospective cab companies. It is an antiquated system and not good for consumers.

    I understand the author of this post owns a taxi cab company and opposes competition, whether from Uber or new entrepreneurs. Old ways of thinking die hard, particularly when they were weaned by legally enforced monopolies.

    I welcome the new companies and seeing consumers have more transportation choices in their communities.

    • Thank you for commenting on this, Rep. Hill. In two other places online which happily pointed out your involvement with SB 396 in a strangely partisan attack on partisanship (Democrats), I have asked if any of the authors or commenters had actually expressed their concerns to you. Both times, that query was met with *crickets*. So, thank you for explaining your reasoning here.

  4. Travis Kavulla | June 3, 2015 2:57 PM at 2:57 PM |

    This same type of debate was playing out about 20 years ago, between the monopoly landline system owned by Ma Bell and its start-up competitors. The argument in favor of the former was that it paid high wages, that it was regulated by state utility commissions, that it performed a social-welfare function (using its lucrative urban monopoly to offer subsidies to rural or low-income consumers). Nonetheless, government stood aside (in some ways) and the following 20 years have seen the flourishing of competitive long-distance services, mobile telephony, VoIP over dedicated systems, over-the-top phone services like Skype, etc. There is still nostalgia for Ma Bell in some places, but I think the consensus is that the public has benefited enormously by freeing up the telecommunications industry.

    There are differences between telecom and the passenger motor-carrier industry, but the fundamentals are the same. There is a technology that is disrupting the way things have always been done — and the way things have always been done is being held up (rather baselessly) as an innately safer, better-paying, regulated, you-name-it way of doing things.

    I’m glad SB 396 passed because it makes clear that 1) the PSC (which regulates these carriers) should not subject motor carrier businesses to a test of whether or not the market “needs” them and whether or not their would-be competitors cannot or will not meet that “need,” before a new company (be it a Transportation Network Carrier or another taxi company) starts operating; 2) the PSC will be the safety regulator of TNCs like Uber.

    Before Uber or a company like it starts in Montana, it still must apply for a license to the PSC, and at that time existing companies may file fitness-related protests. Additionally, the PSC has just started a rulemaking in preparing to enact SB 396. The public comment period is open so please feel free to email me and my colleagues. You can find us at psc.mt.gov

    Travis Kavulla
    Montana Public Service Commissioner

    • Mr. Kavulla, I am surprised you never looked up the legislative intent of Motor Carrier laws In Montana. You do us no service as cab Companies citing any other industry that doesn’t transport people. A phone Company? Ma Bell? Really?

      The legislative intent of Motor Carrier laws In Montana…..They were Patterned after the Haas laws of New York. It was because of Gyspy and fly by night Cabs (Not unlike Uber today), undercutting regular motor carrier companies that put the laws onto the books. I am pretty sure they didn’t want the same kind of strikes, customer confusion and outcry in the 1930’s New York had. What happened in New York was ugly, bloody and in every Newspaper in the United states in the thirties…. and Montana like New York they made Authority Licensing available instead of medallions. You are actually going to cause the very same things to happen. that made people ask for Regulations in the first place…. NO assurance that when they step into a UBER vehicle, they will not be ripped off.

      Secondly, You never brought Cab Companies to the table for anything. We all know how antiquated the rules are but you never so much as once asked Cab Companies for their input…. Are we are beneath you?

      Lastly Uber picks up one license for thousands of cars, Quite unlike regular cab companies….Uber doesn’t own one car in Montana…. How irresponsible is that. How can an APP company own a cab? Oh yeah they don’t, their Independent drivers do?

      And where will customer complaints go. To the San francisco office of UBER?? Really? How are you going to know what’s happening in Montanawhen everything UBER does is externalized another state office first, or to their drivers, who can just push a button on the app and call that person a terrible Customer.

      Then there’s the part of SB396 that promises UBER can to keep their drivers names anonymous.

      You spent a lot of time Lobbying for them Travis….. While telling committee after committee to you didn’t want to enforce Motor carrier law any more.

      How big was that campaign donation??

  5. Miss Hill just because a politician, says it’s untrue. Doesn’t make it so. All the proof is there that you requested and filed failed HB 267. Any person with an internet connection can look at the Montana Legislature site and see that you in fact started the TNC bills this legislation year. nice try trying to blame someone else two years ago…. but no dice. Unfortunately you have become a corporate politician for the do-re-me, and it seems you dont care for home grown montana business.AT any time you could have stepped up and brokered a meeting between the Parties you didn’t do so. Stop blaming everyone else also for allowing ALEC Snippets in your Bill as well.

  6. This is the Twilight Zone. I am not blaming anyone.

    As I stated above, I sponsored legislation in 2013 and 2015 to remove the competitor’s veto from motor carrier regulation. The major newspapers ran Op Ed’s in support. I also co-sponsored Buttrey’s bill that passed this session and I am proud of the bill.

    The bill had had wide bipartisan support and it was signed by the Governor. It is a good piece of legislation and it will be better for consumers to have more options. Frankly, I think the bill will save lives.

    Again, the author of this post owns a taxi company under the existing monopoly system.

    We weren’t elected to protect monopolies and I am thrilled to have worked along side MANY Republicans and Democrats, including Commissioner Kavulla, to move Montana forward, for the better.

    (Note: The bill passed the Senate 41-9. Apparently there are a lot of other corporate shills out there, ey? Ridiculous.)

    • You are leaving us regulated while Uber becomes de-regulated. What part dont you get…. never giving taxis companies in Montana a chance to speak on their behalf. before you wrote these bills. What helping change the antiquated Montana rules wasn’t something you do? Didn’t you get sodomy oof the Books in Montana for Gays? WHy couldn’t you upgrade of remove bad laws first that would make Taxi companies more efficient We all knew they were antiquated.

      Lastly I do not own a monopoly. Luxottica is a Monopoly, Monsanto is a monopoly. Following state regulations to open a business does not make you a Monopoly. Again nice try with UBER talking points!

  7. To be sure, I have also heard the bill hailed as a way to increase access to transportation for people with disabilities – a worthy aim we can call agree on.

  8. Once again, Travis leads us forward. SB 396 rulemaking preliminaries are open for Public Input. From whom? Where’s media? Where’s an Uber Newspaper Journalism story out of Billings? Missoula?

    A community interest story. How disabled people are transported. What’s it like downtown on Saturday night, if you need a Cab.

    A story with balance, with colorful attributions from both sides!

    If LEE misses the opportunity, do interest your local daily Newspaper and/or weekly Independent Newspaper, to provide information and opinion to the Public.

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