State senate protects island’s taxi autonomy

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 8:45am

The goal of keeping Uber-type transportation services off Block Island is still being deliberated in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Senate unanimously passed legislation proposed by the Town of New Shoreham that would prevent services like Uber and Lyft from operating on Block Island. It is the second consecutive year that the town’s anti-Uber legislation passed in the Senate, while failing to garner any traction for passage in the House.

“I feel it’s important that the town has the authority to regulate its taxi service,” Sen. Susan Sosnowski (D) told The Block Island Times. “This is their livelihood.” Sosnowski urged the Block Island community to let their voices be heard to foster passage of the legislation in the House. “Hopefully it’s early enough in the session that the House will take it up, and pass it.”

Sosnowski and Elizabeth Crowley (D) are co-sponsors of S2325, which they reintroduced in February. The town’s anti-Uber legislation is aimed at safeguarding Block Island’s 32 licensed taxi cab services. Rep. Blake Filippi (R) is representing the town’s legislation in the House, where it is being held for further study.

Filippi said that he’s trying to get the legislation “moved to the floor,” and that it “has a chance” for passage.

First Warden Ken Lacoste said, “I am optimistic that representative Filippi will be successful on our behalf on the House side. The House Committee heard our plea.”

The Uber legislation passed by the General Assembly in April of 2016 allows transportation network services, like Uber and Lyft, to operate in any town or city in the state under regulation of the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. If the town’s legislation were to pass in the General Assembly it would exempt New Shoreham from the jurisdiction of the RIDPUC for regulating transportation network companies.

The town has been operating under the principle that if the legislation fails to pass, the town’s ordinance would regulate Uber and Lyft. The town’s taxi ordinance has been in place since 1929.