Uber, Lyft bill stalls

A divide between the House and Senate has stalled a push to bring ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to Alaska.

Senate Bill 14, allowing Uber, Lyft and similar companies to operate in Alaska, needs only a vote of the full House and the signature of Gov. Bill Walker to become law.

Those actions seem unlikely to happen, even as many lawmakers say they support the idea.

Instead, the House is effectively starting the legislative process anew by advancing its own version of Uber legislation from the House Labor and Commerce Committee today.

SB 14 meanwhile remains in the House Rules Committee, awaiting a final vote.

“It’s been there for a month under the control of the House leadership that could’ve put it on the floor, and you have to ask them why they haven’t done that,” said Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage and the sponsor of SB 14.

No member of the House Majority was willing to explain why SB 14 is not advancing to a vote of the full House, spokesman Mike Mason said by text message.

Several lawmakers and legislative staff, who were not willing to be quoted, said the reason is leverage. If the Senate wants its bills to reach a vote in the House, House bills should reach a vote in the Senate.

This year, the House has introduced 245 bills and passed 50 of them to the Senate. Of those 50, the Senate has approved just 10. The Senate has introduced 119 bills this year and passed 21 to the House. The House has approved only five of those 21.

With just 15 bills passed, this Legislature remains on pace to approve the fewest number of bills in any year since statehood.

[Will Uber soon be allowed in Alaska?]

Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, is sponsor of House Bill 132, the House’s version of the Uber legislation.

“We’ll pass House bills all day, all night,” Wool said. “People seem to be more willing to pass House bills at this point.”

“We’re going to hear it in Labor and Commerce this week and kick it to Rules this week. Hopefully this week,” Wool said.

If that happens, HB 132 would then be voted upon by the full House and advance to the Senate.

The Senate has shut down its committee process for everything but budget-related items, and unless it changes that policy, HB 132 would remain dormant until next year.

Costello said she sees SB 14 as a jobs bill, one that could allow Alaskans to be employed this year, if the Legislature acts.

Speaking in her office, she said she took a call on Monday from a woman who asked her to support its passage.

“I got to tell her, not only do I support the bill, I introduced it,” she said with a small laugh. “Pass that bill.”

Sam Moore, an Anchorage resident who has testified in favor of Uber legislation, said by phone that he is disappointed by the prospect of a delay. His vision is bad enough that he can’t drive, and he’d like to see Uber come to Alaska.

“If it’ll get a vote eventually, why don’t they just do it?” he asked.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 419-7732.

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