Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed into law a bill standardizing local licensing regulations on peer-to-peer economy transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber, a popular service connecting drivers and passengers through a mobile phone app.
The state law, which takes effect on July 1, requires TNC drivers to pay an annual $5,000 licensing fee to the state’s Department of Insurance and requires they purchase automobile liability insurance covering up to $1 million. The law also preempts local government ordinances aimed at banning Uber, thus standardizing the state’s regulatory landscape for the services.
‘It’s a Good Thing’
Howard Baetjer, an economics lecturer at Towson University, says there are times when state lawmakers should step in and override local lawmakers’ decisions.
“I’m in favor of having decisions made at the most local level possible, but in this case, I think the government doesn’t really do well by its citizens by restricting this kind of thing,” Baetjer said. “I think it’s a good thing that the State of Mississippi is restricting the localities of Mississippi from meddling in this way.”
Age of Miracles
Baetjer says state lawmakers should not regulate Uber either.
“In the age of smartphones and the internet, government restrictions on city rides and ridesharing are just obsolete,” Baetjersaid. “The regulation can be done and is being done directly by the riders themselves. Every customer is also an inspector! The government should just get out of the way.”
Affecting Taxicabs Too
Mike Hurst, director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, a nonprofit public-interest law firm, says outdated regulations and traditional taxicab companies are stifling Uber.
Hurst represents two Jackson, Mississippi taxi drivers suing state bureaucrats over regulations preventing them from opening their own taxicab company.
“We are representing some taxicab drivers who wanted to start their own companies in Jackson, Mississippi,” Hurst said. “We started looking at the regulations in place, and we noticed the regulations are really onerous and really stifled any mom and pop who wanted to come into the marketplace and start their own company.”
Hurst says intrusive taxicab regulations are causing people to start working for Uber instead.
“One of the guys we represent drives for a taxi company in Jackson. The other one had driven for various companies for 23 years, but it had gotten so bad that he couldn’t make a living anymore,” Hurst said. “He was being squeezed out by the companies themselves, so he’s driving for Uber now.”
Hurst says people should be allowed to work for whomever they want and however they want.
“These gentlemen wanted to start their own companies, want to provide for their families, [and] determine their own destination [and] ultimately leave something for their families,” Hurst said. “We just didn’t think it was right that you have these laws on the books that are completely irrational, anti-competitive, and arbitrary that at the end of the day punish individual citizens.”
Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.