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Massachusetts House passes bill regulating Uber, Lyft

A rider used the Uber app to hail a car in Washington, D.C. AFP/Getty Images/File

The Massachusetts House on Wednesday passed a bill that would subject ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to new regulations, some of which disappointed both the taxi industry and the ride-hailing firms.

Under the bill, drivers would need to undergo state certification and background checks, in addition to a background check by the ride-hailing firms. But the legislation would not require the drivers to be fingerprinted, a move pushed by the taxi industry and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.

The proposed bill would also require Uber and Lyft drivers to display markers on their cars when they are providing rides to customers and prohibit “surge pricing” — increased prices during periods of high demand — during emergencies.


Representatives approved the bill 139 to 16. It still needs final approval from the Senate and the governor to become law.

Representative Aaron Michlewitz, cochairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, said he believed the House passed a balanced bill. “This creates a framework that fosters innovation and growth, but also protects the consumer,” said Michlewitz.

In a statement, Lizzy Guyton, a spokeswoman for Governor Charlie Baker, said the governor believes the bill’s passage is an “important step” and that he looked forward to working with the Legislature as the process continues.

But Donna Blythe-Shaw, a labor organizer with the Boston Taxi Drivers Association, said she was disappointed with the rules and would seek to change the bill in the Senate.

“These are minimal regulations,” she said. “There is nothing in that bill that provides a level playing field for the taxi industry.”

The passage of the bill also drew instant criticism from Lyft.

“The bill limits consumer choice, restricts competition, and doesn’t serve the best interests of Massachusetts visitors or residents, who have benefited from Lyft’s safe, affordable rides at one of the nation’s busiest airports and throughout the Commonwealth,” the company said in a statement.


Uber representatives also outlined several concerns with the proposed regulations.

“The current provisions adopted by the House today will stifle growth and innovation,” Chris Taylor, general manager of Uber Boston, said Wednesday.

As the use of Uber and Lyft has become more common throughout the region, local politicians have sought to regulate the ride-hailing industry.

Before Governor Deval Patrick left office, his administration proposed state regulations for the industry. When Baker took over in 2015, he proposed his own legislation that had several similarities to the bill passed by the House Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the taxi industry has blamed Uber and Lyft for a swift decline in business, and taxi supporters say that the state must strictly regulate ride-hailing firms to ensure the safety of passengers.

On Wednesday, lawmakers grappled with several amendments to the bill. Representative Michael J. Moran tried to tack on a requirement to fingerprint drivers, but the amendment was later withdrawn. Last year, the Brighton Democrat cosponsored a bill that would have enforced stricter regulations for the ride-hailing firms than the current bill.

Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.