Oregon Legislation on Uber and Lyft Might Override Portland Rules

A draft version of a bill, obtained by WW, shows that city regulations might be preempted.

(Christine Dong)

New statewide legislation regulating the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft could render obsolete the city of Portland's rules, a draft bill obtained by WW shows.

Final language of a bill, to be sponsored by Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro), a member of the transportation committee, is not yet available.

But a copy of a draft bill obtained from city officials by WW would regulate the companies statewide.

It would also provide companies with exemptions "to a local governmental entity's regulation of the rates the transportation network company charges or to any other requirements the local governmental entity may impose as a condition of operation within the local governmental entity's jurisdiction."

City officials are trying to forestall the possibility of statewide stepping in to block Portland's rules, including requirements for insurance and background checks.

Marshall Runkel, chief of staff to Chloe Eudaly, the city commissioner in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, criticized the draft version of the bill  calling it "perplexing how anyone could think this would be good policy."

"It's 100 percent private benefit, 0 percent public benefit," Runkel said. "It's a classic example of industry writing self-serving rules."

Ride-hailing companies have made similar efforts in other states. Two years ago, the companies attempted to do the same thing in Oregon, but in that case they offered a tax on the rides as the deal sweetener when the legislature was working through the transportation package. The transportation package passed, but not with the provision for Uber and Lyft.

Related: Uber Offers Oregon Legislature a Deal: Get Portland Regulators Off Our Backs, and We'll Help Fund Your Transportation Package

McLain says there's a need to ensure against a "patchwork" of regulations for both drivers and riders, but that she's working on creating a "floor," not necessarily a limit on requirements.

But she declined to discuss specifics or where the bill would land.

"That's in flux," she tells WW.  "That's why I haven't dropped the bill."

Lyft also said no final deal on the legislation is in place.

"At Lyft we are committed to working collaboratively with policymakers and regulators," says Lauren Alexander, a spokeswoman for Lyft. "Discussion about state wide ride-sharing legislation is in its early stages, and we look forward to ongoing dialogue to ensure we can continue to provide reliable, efficient transportation options for passengers and flexible earning opportunities for drivers."

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