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Free Markets Under Assault at the GA Capitol? - By Greg Williams

February 15, 2014 J

Talk about bad timing, less than a week after the worst weather-related traffic jam in 32 years, a crony cabal of Republican State House Representatives just dropped a bill that would inexorably limit transportation options for all Georgians. The irony of the State Legislature pushing legislation that would adversely impact travel options for the metro Atlanta region less than a week after Snow Jam II is inescapable. House Bill 907, aka, the Taxi Monopoly Protection Act (TMPA), would essentially put RideSharing companies like Uber and Lyft out of business in the State of Georgia. The bill is sponsored by 5 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Why ANYONE would want their name attached to a bill that protects the Taxi Cab Monopoly is beyond me, yet, here we are. [AFP NOTE: AFP sees this as a free market issue where private industry is seeking to use government force to restrict the free market and the innovation and healthy competition brought to the marketplace by companies like Lyft and Uber].

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft connect drivers and passengers through the use of an app on Smartphones. Passengers put a credit card on file with the company and the fare is charged directly to the card on file, a true, cash-less transaction The companies themselves do not engage in Taxi services, they are merely a conduit between two consenting individuals engaged in a free market practice. HB 907 would impose massive regulatory burdens on drivers in this New Economy Transportation business model, including the purchase of “medallions,” registration fees, vehicles inspections by the government, mandatory purchase of $1 million in liability insurances, and a host of other regulations.

The sponsors of the bill represent a strangely logical cross section of Georgia. You may wonder why three of the sponsors hail from rural Georgia. Let’s Connect the Dots Notice the Chairmanships for the sponsors below:

The Statist Roll Call:

Alan Powell, Hartwell, GA (HD 32 Public Safety and Homeland Security – Chairman)
Tom Rice, Norcross, GA (HD 95 Motor Vehicles – Chairman)
Jimmy Pruett, Eastman, GA (HD 149 State Planning Community Affairs – Chairman)

Mary Margaret Oliver, Democrat (HD 82, Decatur, GA–Democrat)

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/138749.pdf

HB 907′s “Mission Statement”

40-1-191.
The General Assembly finds that it is in the public interest to regulate transportation
referral service providers that operate in this state for the safety and protection of the
public.

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 60 of Title 36 of the O.C.G.A., relating to general provisions regarding provisions applicable to counties and municipal corporations, so as to provide for the Department of Public Safety by intergovernmental agreement to regulate taxicabs in certain circumstances; to amend Title 40 of the O.C.G.A., relating to motor vehicles, so as to provide for local enforcement of laws regarding limousine carriers; to authorize the Department of Public Safety to enforce ordinances against staging by limousine carriers; to amend Title 48 of the O.C.G.A., relating to sales and use taxes, so as to provide an exemption; to provide for related matters; to provide for effective dates; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

More Travel Options/Less Cars on the Road decreases the risk of Zombie Traffic jams

Nominally, the bill’s purpose relates to the “safety and protection of the public.” In reality, this is a Republican sponsored, frontal assault on innovation, free market Capitalism, and Choice in Transportation options. The idea that somehow a rickety old Yellow Checker Cab is “safer” than a Uber Black Town Car or an Uberx 2013 Honda Accord is laughable. RideSharing services appeal to a younger demographic (21-45), the most likely population segment to get behind the wheel of a car and drive drunk. The RideShare Smartphone apps provide Users with an efficient, reliable means of Transportation that is often cheaper than a traditional Taxi. This dynamic takes drunk drivers off of the road, something that does indeed enhance the “safety and protection” of the public. Additionally, the cash-less transactions eliminate the risk of robbery. Both Driver and Passenger are protected in this exchange.

On a purely philosophical level, this bill goes against EVERY limited government Republican principle as it protects an antiquated business model from more efficient competition. We don’t need any more regulations or taxes in this state, especially those that propose to stifle competition and stymie free market innovation. To make a Super Bowl analogy, The Taxi Cabs are the Broncos and the RideShare innovators are the Seahawks.

Taxis have enjoyed a 100+ year monopoly here in Georgia and have had every opportunity to create a better business model. They have failed. Don’t let their failure punish the true innovators and job creators like Uber, Lyft and other RideSharing services that have built the proverbially “better mousetrap.”

Greg has issued several updates to his story listed below:

Update 1:
The LYFT Facebook page responded to my post:
“Hi Greg! We have had productive meetings with the bill sponsors to discuss Lyft’s peer-to-peer business model and commitment to safety. We welcome this as an opportunity to start a thoughtful discussion around Lyft in Atlanta and the state of Georgia and look forward to continuing the conversation.”

Update 2:
Alan Powell, Republican from Hartwell, is the lead sponsor on this bill…Give his office a call at 404.463.3793 or email him at alan@alanpowell.net…Let him know this is a bad bill…
This is the text of the email I sent:

“Alan, I am writing to you about your sponsorship of House Bill 907, which would basically put RideShare companies out of business in Georgia. As a leading Republican in the State House, you have a responsibility to live up to our principles of limited government, lower regulations, and support of free markets…Sadly this bill does the exact opposite…I urge you to withdraw your support of this bill.

I encourage you to read my article as it will point out the many fallacies in the bill and hopefully serve as a reminder for you to live up to your oath of office and position as a Republican.”
Sincerely,
Greg Williams

Update 3:
Two of the Bill sponsors have removed their name or asked for their name to be removed from the bill. Thank you to
Ron Stephens, Savannah, GA (HD 164, Economic Development Tourism – Chairman) &
Tom McCall, Elberton, GA (HD 33, Agriculture Consumer Affairs – Chairman)

for choosing Free Market Capitalism over Central Planning.
Keep up the call folks, I want to see this bill removed from consideration completely.

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