The D.C. Council will be taking up major legislation Thursday that aims to regulate the city's growing car-for-hire industry, led by the popular sedan service Uber.
The legislation would not regulate fares but does impose the same jurisdictional restrictions that cabs have to follow when dropping off and picking up passengers, said the bill's sponsor, Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh.
That means sedan drivers who are licensed to operate in the District can only respond to calls in another jurisdiction if those callers are requesting rides into D.C. The city's licensed cab drivers are already under the same restrictions.
"We wanted to comply with that interjurisdictional agreement," Cheh said Wednesday.
The legislation comes after repeated complaints from the city's taxi drivers that Uber was taking away their business. Users download the Uber application to their smartphones to then "hail" a town car idling between jobs. Uber charges a minimum fare of $15, and riders are then charged by the mile and minute at rates Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has said are comparable to what sedan companies typically charge.
The bill, which goes up for first reading Thursday, also creates a "super license" for drivers, which would license someone to drive cabs, limos and sedans instead of having to acquire licenses for each of those separately. The bill does not regulate fares -- a point of contention with Kalanick. However, it does impose other requirements for service, such as offering paper or electronic receipts, making handicapped-accessible vehicles available upon request, and a mandate that the for-hire service be available in all of D.C.'s eight wards.
The bill would have to win preliminary approval Thursday to be eligible for a final vote next month at the council's last legislative meeting of the session. Any bills that don't pass by then must be resubmitted in the new session in January.
The council is also scheduled Thursday to take up major alcohol reform that seeks to update the city's alcohol code, including allowing liquor stores to remain open on Sundays.
Lawmakers will also be casting their finals votes on Council Chairman Phil Mendelson's "good Samaritan overdose prevention" bill, which grants lenience on those who call 911 for someone who has overdosed if the caller is also using drugs.
Cheh's energy bill, which gives financial incentives to those who use solar power or electric vehicles, but also fines some business owners for keeping their doors open while running air conditioning, is also up for a final vote.