FRANKLYWNOW - Bill to bring Uber to Alaska runs into roadblocks in Alaska Sena

Bill to bring Uber to Alaska runs into roadblocks in Alaska Senate

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Uber and other ride-sharing networks are showing an interest in Alaska — and people in Juneau, in them.

“I think it would be great, I’ve got to use it before and I think it’s really nice,” said Larry Walsh, a traveler at the Juneau International Airport.

“It seems like a good, quick experience. I just used it in Seattle, lots of places, I’ve used them and they work great,” said Juneau resident Susan James.

But before Alaska can get ride-sharing networks like Uber or Lyft, the Legislature must make changes at a state level, including an exemption for drivers from workers’ compensation and their recognition as independent contractors. That’s why Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, says her bill, Senate Bill 14, must pass this session.

“You use your own car, you use your own phone and you know you work when you want to, so that’s why they’re considered independent contractors,” Costello explained.

But SB 14 is running into a couple of hurdles. The biggest one — a more than $200,000 annual price tag the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development placed on the bill to oversee the industry.

“The state would never get that back, because Uber doesn’t pay wage, pay unemployment tax or anything like that,” said James Harris, owner of Juneau Taxi & Tours, who testified against the bill Wednesday morning. 

Members of the taxicab industry aren’t the only ones pushing back. The Alaska Municipal League (AML), which represents municipalities statewide, has also come out against the measure — but not because it doesn’t like Uber.

“The part that we’re opposed to is that it says all regulation of these transportation networks will be done by the state and the municipality will have no ability to regulate,” said Kathie Wasserman, the executive director of AML.

Costello says state regulation is the only way forward.

“It’s just simply common sense,” she said. “We have communities all across Alaska, we have consumers who want to be traveling through one city to another, to a borough. If you have a different set of rules every time you cross an imaginary line, it’s going to make it more complicated. If Uber’s coming to Alaska, this bill has to pass.”

If SB 14 doesn’t pass, Alaska will remain the only state that has kicked Uber to the curb.

Costello says she’s working with the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to try to bring down the cost of implementing the bill. She does not believe the department will require additional staff or equipment to oversee the new industry.

KTVA 11’s Liz Raines can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

The post Bill to bring Uber to Alaska runs into roadblocks in Alaska Senate appeared first on KTVA 11.

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