Senate passes taxi legislation, again

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 6:15pm

A bill introduced by Sen. Susan Sosnowski aimed at preventing ride sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft from operating on Block Island, passed in the Senate on Tuesday. Block Island’s taxicab owners and operators have been waging a battle over the past few years to prevent those ride-sharing services from operating on the island.

The legislation, if it passes in the House, would exempt Block Island from the state’s transportation network services law enacted three years ago by the General Assembly. It is the third time the legislation (S2325), known as the anti-Uber legislation, passed in the Senate.

The bill would exempt Block Island from being governed by the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, and allow the Town of New Shoreham to regulate its taxi business. Exemption from the legislation would mean that ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft would be subjected to the same regulations as Block Island’s taxi drivers, including having to put their name on a license waiting list with the town. Block Island has 32 licensed taxicab operators, and an ordinance regulating its transportation services that has been in place since 1929.

Sosnowski told The Times that there was only “one no-vote in the Senate.” She said having a Town Council resolution along with testimony on behalf of the island’s taxi drivers was helpful in gaining passage of the legislation.

“We’ve passed it three times, but I don’t know what’s going to happen in the House,” said Sosnowski, who noted that, “The lobbyists have been working against it.”

The legislation has failed to make it to the floor in the House, where State Rep. and House Minority Leader, Blake Filippi, has been pursuing its passage. The legislation has been put before two committees in the House: the House Corporations Committee and the House Municipal Government Committee, but never moved to the floor for a vote.  

Town Manager Ed Roberge said that it’s “a strenuous argument” that’s being made in the House. “We need to keep lobbying for its passage.” Roberge said the legislation has “historic significance,” since the island’s ordinance was written in 1929.