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Uber, Lyft carpooling bill stalls in Senate committee ahead of deadline

A California bill that would allow on-demand transportation companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to charge passengers separately for carpooling has hit a snag in the Legislature.

The Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications declined to hear the bill, AB 1360, on Monday, with committee Chairman Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) saying in a statement he considered the bill a “piecemeal” approach to regulating on-demand transportation companies.

“It’s important not to piecemeal but instead take a comprehensive view of the industry that takes into consideration consumer protections, passenger and road safety,” he said in a statement. “To that end, I will be holding an informational hearing on the subject in the fall.”

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), said in a statement that he was disappointed the measure did not get called for a vote, but he remains “committed to ensuring carpooling for ride-shares will become a reality across the state.”

Supporters of the bill, including San Francisco-based Lyft, also expressed disappointment. The company's director of public affairs, David Mack, said in a statement that he hoped the Legislature would revisit the bill.

“If allowed to stand, the result will be a blow for carpooling in California and a significant setback for Sen. [Kevin] de Leon [the Senate president pro tem] and Gov. Brown’s greenhouse gas reduction goals,” he said.

The abrupt halt to the bill’s progress means the chances of it advancing before Friday’s deadline to pass bills out of policy committees are slim. This doesn’t mean the bill is dead, because there are still opportunities for it to be heard later in the legislative session. But its future, as well as Hueso’s intentions, are currently unclear.

Announced in April, Ting’s bill received strong support from both the on-demand transportation industry and environmental groups, which described the bill as “common sense.” Ting had described existing laws, which prohibited commercial carpooling, as “archaic,” and said a new bill would be “win, win, win” for consumers, drivers and the environment.”

The bill passed the Assembly in May by an overwhelming 69-0 vote.

Twitter: @traceylien

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