It appears that the Legislature might soon choose to make it much easier for certain high-tech innovators to do business anywhere in our Garden State. We hope that decision respects the concerns of all local officials in protecting the public’s interest.
The League of Municipalities opposes S-2179 and A-3695. These proposals would create a new class of taxis, exempt from local oversight. Instead, the legislation establishes State-level safety and insurance requirements for transportation network companies. According to the bill, a transportation network company (Uber or Lyft, for example) is an individual or entity that uses a digital network or software application to connect a passenger to a transportation network company driver for the purpose of providing transportation to the passenger. Provisions in both bills exempt these entities and individuals from any local regulation.
Since 1917, in order to protect prospective passengers and the general public, and to preserve order, municipalities have been empowered by statute to license and regulate ride-for-hire businesses. Throughout that period, in order to protect the public, local governing bodies have been responsive to concerns raised by passengers, drivers, pedestrians, local merchants and other motorists. Local first responders have attended to accidents. Local law enforcement has responded to incidents. While no level of regulation is perfect, municipalities have clearly demonstrated their effectiveness in this area for close to 100 years.
The manner in which the service is dispatched and provided does not materially alter the responsibilities that local governments will bear. Nor will the manner of dispatch obviate the concerns of local elected officials in ensuring the public’s legitimate interests in public safety. Further, enactment of this bill could motivate traditional taxi and limousine businesses to, similarly, avoid local over-sight, by a change to their business models. That, in turn, could make it more difficult for older residents and for the economically disadvantaged to access transportation alternatives. On that basis, absent deletion of the preemption provisions, the League of Municipalities cannot support this legislation.
As an alternative, and on its own merits, the League supports S-2415. This bill, which does not preempt local interests, looks to create a For-Hire Vehicle License Plate Task Force to design uniquely colored licenses plates, for display on for-hire vehicles. Under the bill, “for-hire vehicle” includes a taxi, limousine, and personal motor vehicle used to provide passenger transportation for which a fee is paid and is prearranged through a digital network.
The task force would be given six months to deliver findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature. After appropriate action by State elected officials, the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) would issue special license plates to the owners of for-hire vehicles. The MVC would also establish a public awareness campaign to inform the public about the uniquely colored license plates and to post signs with this information at each airport, motorbus, rail, light rail, and ferry terminal and station.
This bill would help the public and the police to identify all vehicles that are authorized to provide ride-for-hire services. It would also help local police better enforce safety requirements.
Please contact your State Legislators and communicate your concerns with S-2179 and A-3695, as currently drafted. And, please ask that instead for their support for S-2415.
Jon Moran, Sr. Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481, x121.