Last summer, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law a bill that regulates ride-sharing companies and allows them to operate in Rhode Island. The law includes strong language to promote public safety, accountability, and fairness. The key requirements are that all drivers undergo national background checks and that ride-sharing companies — such as Uber and Lyft — pay state taxes and comply with insurance regulations.
This was a good deal for Rhode Island then, and it is a good deal for Rhode Island now.
Since the legislation passed, Rhode Islanders have embraced ride-sharing services to travel from place to place, and many have signed up to work as drivers. Research also shows that ride-sharing services are helping to keep drunk drivers off the streets and reduce fatal accidents.
The law has ensured that Rhode Island is home to a robust transportation ecosystem where riders can choose from a range of cost-effective options to travel safely around the state. Additionally, ride-sharing companies have generated more than $300,000 in sales tax revenue for Rhode Island.
However, with the introduction of every new technology, there will always be legacy market players looking to protect their turf.
Less than a year after the legislation passed, several new bills have been introduced and supported by special interest groups that would threaten the ability of ride-sharing companies to operate in Rhode Island. One example is a bill that would effectively ban ride-sharing on Block Island. Another would undo measures of a national ride-sharing insurance compromise that is already working effectively.
Ride-sharing has evolved from a convenient service to a central piece of the modern transportation puzzle. It has also proven to be a boon for local workers looking for flexible opportunities as well as the broader economy. That’s why 48 states have signed legislation to allow for the operation of ride-sharing services.
We cannot risk shutting the door on new technologies at the pressure of special interest groups that are threatened by innovation. If we do so, the economic impacts will be felt across Rhode Island for decades to come.
Rhode Island’s technology industry accounts for $3 billion of the overall state economy and employs tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders. That is due, in no small part, to forward-thinking policies that have been put in place to welcome entrepreneurs and startups to the state. Unfortunately, backtracking on the state’s ride-sharing law would send a strong message to the contrary.
TechNet applauds Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island General Assembly for passing legislation last year that creates a sensible regulatory structure for ride-sharing services. State legislators should continue to embrace innovation and protect responsible ride-sharing in the Ocean State.
Matt Mincieli is the Northeast Region executive director for TechNet, a national network of innovation economy CEOs and senior executives.