- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia Senate on Thursday passed a slightly tweaked substitute measure to a House bill that apparently clears the way for Uber, Lyft and other ride hailing companies to keep operating in the state.

The substitute, which makes minor changes to the original bill by Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, passed Thursday 48-2.

A smiling Powell was in the House when the vote was taken and said he was pleased to see long and arduous negotiations over tough issues such as public safety at an end.

Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican, who spoke for the bill in the upper chamber, said Powell’s measure had the support of “all parties” even though Uber and similar app-based technology ride hailing firms have run into regulatory difficulty in other states.

Under the bill, cities will no longer issue medallions to taxis, except in Atlanta where the process will be phased out, Powell said.

“We applaud the Senate for clearing the bill (Thursday) and sending it back to the House for the final stop before the governor’s signature,” said Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett. “This is a huge step for riders and drivers in Georgia and confirms that the state legislature overwhelmingly stands for innovation and greater choice and opportunity.”

Another ride hailing bill, HB 190, sponsored by Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, remains in limbo, however, with time running out in the current session.

Uber has said it could not operate in Georgia if Golick’s bill becomes law. Bennett said “things are developing.”

Golick said “conversations” have taken place, “just a delay tactic to attempt to run out the clock.”

Insurance issues involving riders and drivers have cropped up in many states. Bennett said insurance companies seem to be coming together for a compromise that will satisfy Georgia and other states.

Golick said in a statement that currently there is no Georgia law for Transportation Network Companies such as Uber to carry insurance related to commercial business activities.

“Reputable companies such as Uber, Lyft and perhaps others do carry some level of insurance but if they unilaterally decided to drop that insurance coverage, they would not be in violation of state law, and neither the Insurance Department nor an affected consumer would have any recourse.”

The trade publication Insurance Journal said major insurers are ready to strike a deal that would ease the concerns of Golick and officials in other states.

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