Uber gets a Lyft as ride-sharing passes Senate

Senator Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage argues against allowing Uber and Lyft companies to operate in Alaska, while members of her Democrat caucus, Tom Begich, Bill Wielechowski, and Dennis Egan, listen.

Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft got the green light by the Alaska Senate, which voted to pass Senate Bill 14, allowing Alaskans to use their cell phones to connect themselves with for-hire drivers in what’s known as the “access economy.”

The Senate vote was along party lines: Republicans favored it and Democrats voted against it, 14-5. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, was the only Republican senator who voted against it.

Sponsored by Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, the bill endured lengthy floor objections by Sens. Bill Wielechowski, Dennis Egan, Berta Gardner, and Tom Begich.  Wielechowski, Begich and Gardner are all part of a newly formed “Innovation Caucus” that was announced earlier in the week.

“Personally I like transportation network services,” argued Sen. Dennis Egan. “The problem is they don’t fit here. I’ve used them Outside. And I hope they come to Alaska someday.” And then he went on to say why they were a bad idea because local municipalities should have control.

Most of the amendments were “poison pill” amendments, and the majority of those were offered and argued by Wielechowski, a union lawyer for IBEW 1547. But two amendments passed, preventing drivers who have been convicted of a felony or some moving vehicle violations, as well as those on the national sex offender registry. Both required amendments to amendments to make them work, due to a drafting error by Legislative Legal Affairs.

Unions have made their displeasure known in Juneau on the ride-sharing bill. The Teamsters flew a union representative in from Seattle to testify during the House hearings on the companion bill, HB 132, which was heard in House Labor and Commerce Committee last week.

Vince Beltrami and Joelle Hall, president and director of operations for the Alaska AFL-CIO have been spotted in the Capitol this week, to talk with lawmakers, and Teamsters are hosting an invitation only birthday party for a key legislator this weekend.

[Bring on ride-sharing services in Alaska.]

The House version was heard and held in House Labor and Commerce Committee and will be taken up today at 3:15 pm., where poison pill amendments by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage will be heard.