By Kevin Lata
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – After operating under a temporary agreement for the better part of a year, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft now have a law allowing them to transport passengers in Virginia after Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill that sets licensing procedures and standards for drivers.
“I am proud to sign this legislation, which supports innovation in our transportation system while also protecting the safety of citizens across the commonwealth. Virginia is leading the way on attracting and supporting innovative companies in every sector of our economy,” McAuliffe said Tuesday (Feb. 17).
The signing of House Bill 1662 and Senate Bill 1025 formalizes an interim agreement that the governor and Attorney General Mark Herring reached with the taxi-like companies last summer. The agreement allowed the services to conduct business until the General Assembly could reach a consensus on how to regulate them.
Del. Tom Rust, R-Herndon, one of the sponsors of HB 1662, said, “Now that this legislation will become law, Virginians can take advantage of this new technology with assurance that reasonable safety and liability measures are governing its use.”
To request a ride, users open the company’s app on their phone and select a pickup and drop-off location. Within minutes, a driver can be at their door ready to drive them to their destination.
The law requires that drivers be screened to ensure they pass criminal background checks, have a clean driving record and aren’t in the sex registry database. Drivers must be 21 and have at least a $1 million liability insurance policy.
Those requirements are nearly identical to the process the company uses to screen prospective drivers around the world.
Herring said Virginia can serve as a model to states looking to develop their own regulations for transportation network companies.
“As other states grapple with regulation of TNCs and the emerging sharing economy, they should look to Virginia, where we have found the balance between safety, passenger protection and innovation,” Herring said.
“This law will strengthen our economy, give consumers more transportation options, and further cement Virginia’s reputation as a national leader for pro-business policies and reasonable regulation.”
The new law represents a welcome turn of events for ride-sharing services, which were banned by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles last spring. The DMV fined Uber $26,000 and Lyft $9,000 and threatened to fine their drivers up to $1,000 for not complying with the ban.
The standoff between the companies and the DMV prompted McAuliffe and Herring to forge the interim agreement.
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.