- Associated Press - Friday, August 5, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law Friday the state’s first regulations on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, calling a new state background check for drivers the strongest in the nation.

With the new law, Massachusetts joins more than 30 other states with some form of regulations for the popular, app-based services. Lawmakers passed a compromise version of the bill, first filed by the Republican governor in April 2015, during the final hectic moments of the two-year legislative session last weekend.

Baker said the law provides “safe and diverse transportation options,” along with opportunities for people to earn money.

“This regulatory framework includes many of our own proposals to embrace disruptive technology and prioritize public safety to give consumers safe and reliable travel choices,” he said in a statement.

The bill establishes a two-tiered system for checking the backgrounds of drivers. The first will be conducted by the companies and the second by the state Department of Public Utilities, including checks of the Criminal Offender Record Information and the Sex Offender Registry.

Drivers, however, will not have to submit fingerprints - as Boston taxi drivers do. The city’s police commissioner, William Evans, had been among those pushing for fingerprinting of drivers for ride-hailing services, officially referred to in the law as transportation network companies.

The new law will require the companies to pay a 20-cent per ride fee, a portion of which would go toward helping cabbies hurt by competition from the new industry. The companies would not be allowed to pass the fee on to consumers.

Legislative negotiators dropped from the final version of the bill a House-passed provision that would have barred the ride-hailing firms from picking up passengers at Logan International Airport or the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for the next five years. The proposal, intended to provide a temporary boost to taxi companies, drew opposition from Uber and Lyft as well as business and tourism officials.

Instead, the law will allow the Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees the airport, and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to set parameters for the operation of ride-hailing services at those facilities.

Uber and Lyft, in separate statements, embraced the new law.

“We are grateful for (Baker’s) support and the Legislature’s effort toward creating a framework that embraces an innovative industry that has changed the way the Commonwealth moves,” said Chris Taylor, Uber’s Boston General Manager.

Adrian Durbin, a spokesman for Lyft, applauded the signing of “common sense legislation.”

Other provisions of the law include minimum insurance requirements for all ride-hailing vehicles and limitations on higher or so-called “surge” pricing during periods of increased demand.

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