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Maryland lawmakers approve Uber bill, send it to Hogan for signing

Thousands of local car owners have signed up in recent months to drive with one of the “ride-share” operators that use smartphone apps to link people needing rides with car owners willing to give them, for a price. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Maryland lawmakers approved legislation Monday making Uber, Lyft and other commercial ride-sharing services legal in the state. The “Uber” legislation now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for his signature.

With this legislation, lawmakers ensure a future for ridesharing in the state while addressing concerns raised by other transportation services. The District and Virginia recently approved regulatory frameworks for the popular app-based car services.

The legislation was approved in the last hours of the 90-day legislative session and supporters say they anticipate the governor’s support. Hogan’s spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said the governor is still reviewing the bill, but she said it “creates a forward-thinking framework for bringing transportation network services and more jobs to our state.”

In addition to allowing the services to operate in the state, the legislation sets rules related to minimum insurance coverage and requires the companies to conduct criminal background checks on their drivers.

“This bill is a win for Marylanders and win for innovation in our region,” said state Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), a lead sponsor of the bill.

Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said the approval “marks a huge win for riders and drivers across the state who now have permanent access to safe, reliable rides and the jobs they create.”

The legislation creates a separate “transportation network services” category for Uber and similar services and distinguishes the industry from the traditional taxi industry and other private car services that are subject to decades-old statutes.

The bill, which was substantially changed from the original proposal, requires Uber and other companies to register with the Maryland Public Service Commission. Cab and private sedan drivers and company owners in Maryland had opposed the original proposal, saying that it does not provide the level of regulation necessary to protect the public. But some supported the final bill, saying it is a good compromise.

Dwight Kines, Vice President of Yellow & Checker Cab in Baltimore said the legislation provides “adequate regulation for this business model and, at the same time, update the existing statutes in order to allow taxi and sedan companies to compete fairly going forward with protection for the public.”

In a statement, Lyft said, “we look forward to working with the [Public Service Commission] and Governor Hogan to develop a streamlined process for implementation and are excited to see ridesharing continue to grow and thrive across the state.”

Ferguson said the legislation protects riders and welcomes the innovated ride sharing industry into the state.

It establishes “a new, more flexible framework for Transportation Network Companies like Lyft and Uber and provides predictability in the marketplace so that these companies can grow,” he said. “The negotiations also led to enhanced flexibility for existing transportation companies to ensure that the marketplace is fair and competitive.”