- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - The first of a slew of bills that would regulate popular car-hailing companies such as Uber overwhelmingly passed the Georgia House on Tuesday, but the San Francisco-based tech firm said it was not happy with the measure or several others under discussion.

House Bill 190 requires that drivers have insurance coverage from the time they turn on their apps until a passenger is dropped off, said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Rick Golick of Smyrna. Apps for Uber, Lyft and similar services connect passengers with drivers nearby. The companies consider their drivers small business owners, not employees or contractors.

Many states are grappling with how to regulate car hailing services, which compete with taxis and limousines. The taxi industry says Uber and Lyft get an unfair competitive advantage because their drivers are not subject to the same insurance, safety and licensing requirements as taxis and limousines. The companies, however, say they operate differently and shouldn’t be subject to the same rules.

“This bill puts the interests of big insurance companies ahead of small business owners by needlessly driving up their costs to make a living,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said.

Thousands of college students, retirees and working people who want to earn extra income work for the two companies, and Bennett said a ride on Uber costs less than a taxi.

Later in the day, the House Regulated Industries Committee approved a bill that would tighten driver requirements for car-hailing services. Lawmakers and representatives for Uber and Lyft say disagreements over the bills remain, but both sides expressed optimism that any problems could be worked out.

About a dozen Lyft drivers wearing the company’s trademark pink shirts sat in the audience Tuesday.

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