UPDATE: Governor Walker signs ride-sharing bill into law

UPDATED: Friday, May 1, 2015 -- 11:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis.-- Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 143 into law on Friday. The new law regulates ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Those companies are required to apply for a $5,000 state license and carry $1 million in commercial insurance for each driver. Drivers would have to submit findings from a criminal background check to their companies.

Governor Walker is asking for the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to immediately begin the rule making process. He also directed DSPS to issue rules to clarify the intent of the law, ensuring that DSPS has the ability to obtain the information necessary to hold individual drivers accountable and preserve public safety.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 -- 2:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democratic lawmakers are asking Gov. Scott Walker to veto a bill that opponents argue doesn't do enough to regulate ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

The veto request Tuesday comes after two Madison women reported incidents of unwanted sexual contact over the weekend by Uber drivers.

Eleven Dane County Democrats are requesting that Walker veto the bill that passed both the Assembly and Senate on bipartisan votes earlier this month.

The letter notes that the Madison Police Department asked Uber for information about the drivers in both incidents, but the company said it couldn't provide that without a warrant or subpoena.

The lawmakers say the bill is flawed by not allowing for more local oversight of the companies.

Walker's spokeswoman Laurel Patrick didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015

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UPDATED Tuesday, April 21, 2015---2:50 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate has approved a bill that would create statewide regulations on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The measure would prohibit any local ordinances governing ride-hailing companies. Instead, the companies would have to purchase a $5,000 state license, conduct driver background checks and maintain liability insurance. Drivers would be prohibited from discriminating against passengers based on their race, religion, sex or disability.

Supporters say the regulations will help Uber and Lyft expand around the state and create more transportation options. Critics say regulations should come from local governments, not the state and the bill is designed to protect the companies' business model.

The Senate passed the measure on a voice vote Tuesday. The Assembly approved the proposal last week. It now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, April 21, 2015---8:29 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate is set to vote on a bill that would create statewide regulations on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The measure would prohibit any local ordinances governing ride-hailing companies. Instead, the companies would have to purchase a $5,000 state license, conduct driver background checks and maintain liability insurance. Drivers would be prohibited from discriminating against passengers based on their race, religion, sex or disability.

Supporters say the regulations will help Uber and Lyft expand around the state and create more transportation options. Critics say regulations should come from local governments, not the state.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill Tuesday. The state Assembly overwhelmingly approved the proposal last week. Senate approval would send the bill to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Thursday, April 16, 2015 --- 2:07 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A bill that would impose statewide regulations on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft has cleared a state Senate committee.

The Senate's government operations committee approved the bill 4-1 on Thursday, clearing the way for a vote in the full Senate perhaps as early as next week. The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed the measure earlier this week.

The bill would require ride-hailing companies to purchase a $5,000 license, conduct driver background checks and maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. Drivers would be prohibited from discriminating against passengers because of race, religion, sex or disability.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, an Alma Democrat, cast the lone dissenting vote. She said local governments should regulate the industry, not the state.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Tuesday, April 14, 2015---8:19 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin lawmakers are scheduled to debate a bill that would regulate ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

The Assembly is expected to take up the measure Tuesday. An Assembly committee passed the bill last week on an 11-2 vote.

Regulating companies like Uber and Lyft, which connect pedestrians with private drivers through a smartphone app, has become a hot topic as they've increased in popularity and compete with taxi and limo companies.

Under the measure, the companies would have to purchase a $5,000 license, conduct driver background checks and maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. The proposal would also prohibit drivers from discriminating against passengers because of race, religion, sex or disability.

Assembly approval would move the bill to the Senate.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 8, 2015---11:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A bill requiring statewide regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft is headed to a vote before the Wisconsin state Assembly.

An Assembly committee on Wednesday passed the measure on a bipartisan 10-2 vote. It is scheduled to be debated by the full Assembly on Tuesday.

Regulating companies like Uber and Lyft has become a hot topic as they've increased in popularity and competed with traditional taxi services and limo companies.

Ride-hailing companies connect pedestrians with private drivers through a smartphone app.

Under the measure, the companies would have to purchase a $5,000 state license, conduct driver background checks and maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. The proposal would also prohibit drivers from discriminating against passengers because of race, religion, sex or disability.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 8, 2015---9:48 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin lawmakers are set to decide whether to advance a bill requiring statewide regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

The Assembly's state affairs committee is scheduled to take up the issue Wednesday morning.

Ride-hailing companies connect pedestrians with private drivers through a smartphone app, competing directly with traditional taxi and limo companies.

Local governments have been regulating ride-hailing companies via ordinance. The bill would prohibit such local ordinances. Ride-hailing companies would have to get a $5,000 state license, conduct driver background checks and maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. The proposal would also require bar drivers from discriminating against passengers because of race, religion, sex or disability.

Committee approval would clear the way for a vote in the full Assembly.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, April 2, 2015---2:48 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- An Uber official is trying to convince Wisconsin lawmakers that a Republican bill that would create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies says the measure would allow the company to offer rides in rural areas.

Robert Kellman, Uber's Midwest public policy manager, told the state Assembly's government operations committee during a public hearing Thursday that the bill would create another transportation option for Wisconsin. He says the company is eager to expand.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for a private car service or in some cases a taxi. The bill would require such companies to apply for state licenses, conduct criminal background checks on their drivers and insure their operations.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Thursday, April 2, 2015---9:34 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A legislative committee is set to hold a public hearing on a bill that would impose regulations on Internet-based ride-hailing companies.

The bill would require companies such as Uber and Lyft to apply for state licenses, conduct criminal background checks on their drivers and insure their operations.

The traditional taxi industry, which sees online ride-hailing companies as competitors, fiercely opposes the bill, saying the regulations are too lax. They say ride-share businesses should be subject to same mandates as taxis, including driver permits, background checks by law enforcement and vehicle inspections.

The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations was scheduled to hold the hearing Thursday afternoon in the state Capitol.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Monday, March 30, 2015 --- 11:41 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced a bill that would impose statewide regulations on ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The measure would require companies to apply for a $5,000 state license and carry $1 million in commercial insurance for each driver. Drivers would have to submit findings from a criminal background check to their companies.

The measure also would prohibit local governments from adopting any regulations on such companies.

The bill's chief author is Rep. Tyler August, a Lake Geneva Republican. He says the bill would solve a patchwork of local ordinances.

Uber media relations officials didn't immediately respond to an email inquiry Monday morning.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Tuesday, April 22, 2014 --- 10:32 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police and city leaders are pushing back against ridesharing companies operating in Madison.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1muBsdb ) undercover police fined drivers from the ridesharing companies more than $1,300 last weekend for violating Madison's taxi ordinances.

A representative from Lyft, one company that hires drivers to use their own cars and shuttle passengers, says the operation doesn't violate any of the city's laws.

Police and Mayor Paul Soglin disagree. Soglin says the ridesharing companies amount to unlicensed taxi cabs, and police have vowed more crackdowns.

Police in March warned the companies about the sting operations if drivers continued soliciting riders.

The controversy has sparked a conversation by some city officials to create new ordinances that allow the businesses to operate with some regulation.

Copyright 2014. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 13, 2014 --- 4:26 p.m.

Madison Police are asking unlicensed citizen ride share drivers to stop driving for the time being.

Wednesday night at a public meeting, taxi drivers voiced concerns that drivers from citizen ride share services such as Lyft and Uber were taking fares without having a license to do so.

Taxi drivers argued that it was giving drivers from Lyft and Uber an unfair advantage.

Thursday, the Madison City Attorney ruled that the companies are in violation of city ordinances.

Madison Police advise the drivers to cease and desist while further discussions are underway, or they could be cited.

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Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 --- 10:40 p.m.

Launched less than two weeks ago in Madison, ride-sharing companies like "Lyft" are hoping to connect customers with citizen drivers through an app you can download on your smart phone.

It's a concept that's both gaining popularity and stirring up controversy as it spreads to more cities around the country.

Here's how it works: customers download the company's app on their smart phones. Then they can hit "Request Lyft." That request notifies drivers nearby, who also have the app. The drivers then choose to accept or decline to pick up customers.

"I'm able to set my own hours, I'm able to use the car that I have," said Lyft driver Brad Parker.

The app is also linked to customer's and drivers' Facebook profiles and credit card information. After the service, customers rate drivers and vice-versa. Which is updated on their profiles.

"In almost every case, I hear these companies and their supporters making these same arguments." But Union Cab drivers like Jason Glomp aren't on board.

At a public discussion session tonight on the issue, traditional taxi cab companies' employees argued this business model is illegal.

"They tell people that they're not taxi companies and therefore should not be bound by the same rules as the cab industry. But as I understand, their business model, they contract drivers to pick up customers on demand and transport them throughout the city for a fee. My question is, how is that not a taxi service," Glomp said.

City ordinances require taxi cab drivers follow specific regulations. The debate: can both new and old operate in Madison?

"Those of us who are operating in this local cab market have had issues with regulation in the past, but we all don't have the audacity to simply operate in violation of that ordinance," Glomp said.

"I don't think anyone from Lyft is trying to take over cab companies," Parker said. "What I think that this is, is kind of an evolution of the concept of cabs."

Since the concept is so new to Madison, no decisions have been made yet. Some on the city council want to propose an ordinance system that would allow both kinds of ride services to compete fairly and legally.