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DeLeo Will Consider Fingerprinting For Ride-hail Drivers, But Uber Says It Could Leave Boston

Boston Police Comissioner William Evans testifies on legislation to regulate ride-hailing services.
AP Photo

Beacon Hill lawmakers are nearing completion on a bill that could allow police to fingerprint ride-hail service drivers, but the safety measure backed by Boston Police might cause Uber to go hit cancel and pull out of the Boston market.

"We have been forced to exit certain markets because of regulatory positions that have forced us out," Chris Taylor, Uber's Boston General Manager, told WGBH News Wednesday.

According to Uber, regulations lead to removing the app-based driver-on-demand service from Broward County, Florida, where fingerprinting was part of a regulatory ordinance there.

Uber says they returned to Broward County after officials there revisited their regulations. The ride-hailing company also stop serving San Antonio and the entire state of Kansas over what it considered overly harsh regulations.

Boston Police started fingerprinting cab drivers this week and Police Commissioner William Evans wants the Legislature to give him the legal authority to treat Uber and Lyft drivers the same way.

"The system that we bring to bear brings a great amount of safety and does it without some of compromises that a fingerprint based background check system necessarily brings into play," Taylor said.

Taylor said the data sets fingerprint systems use to identify threats could be outdated or flawed. More importantly, he said, the checks are discriminatory because they don't distinguish between arrests and convictions, something that could hold back potential safe drivers from earning income driving an Uber.

Taylor wouldn't speculate on what Massachusetts will eventually decide to do, and what Uber's response would be, but said "all options are on the table."

Much of that decision to mandate a fingerprint provision in the House's bill is in the hands of DeLeo, who says committees are still working on the legislation.
"It was my original feeling that there would be, obviously, a record check. I thought that would be sufficient. But based upon what the police commissioner says I'm going to take a - speak to them as well on that," DeLeo said after meeting with Democratic House members Wednesday.

DeLeo says the recent shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan allegedly involving an Uber driver, has not affected the Massachusetts bill.

In remarks before his chamber in January, DeLeo laid out his desire to see legislation that would lead to ride-hailing services coexisting with the taxi industry. 

"We will find a way to make companies such as Uber and Lyft part of the permanent landscape in Massachusetts, while keeping in mind the benefit that competition from taxi cabs and livery companies bring to the marketplace. Consumer choice is a good thing," DeLeo said.

In those remarks, DeLeo had said he wanted the bill done before the end of February, but now says it'll come to the floor next month.


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