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UberX and Lyft in Philly pass biggest Harrisburg hurdle

All they need now is Governor Tom Wolf’s signature.

The long, heated saga between ride-sharing companies, the Philadelphia Parking Authority and taxis ended this evening in Harrisburg, and ride-sharing won.

The Senate voted 47-1 to pass Senate Bill 984 this afternoon, granting UberX and Lyft immediate permission to operate throughout Pennsylvania contingent on the approval of Governor Tom Wolf. He is likely to sign the bill, though the Governor plans to review it before making a decision.

The Governor has supported the legalization of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft throughout Pennsylvania,” press secretary Jeffrey Sheridan said in a statement, “and he believes we should be finding ways to help these companies grow across the Commonwealth.”  

In a statement shortly after the bill passed, Wolf added “I applaud the legislature for passing this into law and I look forward to signing the bill.”

Republican Jake Corman, the Senate Majority Leader, called ride-sharing “maybe the most revolutionary invention since the internet” and yet UberX and Lyft had been operating illegally in Philadelphia for most of the last two years, having never received the PPA’s permission and having never been part of a permit making them temporarily legal in the rest of the state.

This bill establishes standards for drivers, insurance, background checks, safety measures, ADA compliance and other regulations pertaining to ride-sharing. The PPA can make its own inspections of Uber and Lyft vehicles or conduct checks on drivers.

The bill also stipulates the Philadelphia School District will receive a share of the companies’ revenues. Uber and Lyft will be mandated to give 1.4 percent of their gross receipts to the PPA. The PPA will then share two-thirds of the 1.4% with the school district. During the two-plus months UberX and Lyft were legal in the summer and early fall, the school district received two-thirds of 1 percent of their gross receipts for a total of $356,000. The companies’ revenue during that period was $53 million. In a full year, the school district could receive more than $1 million.   

As part of the bill, Uber could also save more than $10 million. Earlier this year, it was fined $11 million by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) for operating in the state without permission. This bill has language some legislators argue cuts the fine down to $250,000. Others say it is meant to be proactive and that the PUC supports the bill.   

State Sen. Jay Costa argued the legislature didn’t have the ability to decrease the fine and asked for the bill to be amended before it goes before the Governor’s desk.

“I strongly believe we have to make certain we don’t run the risk of losing the legislation,” he said.

But Wolf has urged the PUC to decrease the fine, and it is unlikely to lead to the failure of the bill.  

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