Uber blames Alabama mayors for stalling ride-booking law

A statewide framework to regulate ride-booking firms such as Uber and Lyft stalled in the Legislature, and it’s unclear when such companies could begin launch new service in Alabama communities.

Uber, through a spokeswoman, points to Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson as culprits for the stalled legislation, Al.com reported (http://bit.ly/2s7y9R0).

“It is unfortunate that the mayors of Mobile and Huntsville blocked one set of rules that would have brought Uber throughout Alabama, preventing people from across the state from earning money and getting safe rides,” Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George said.

The legislation didn’t get a final vote before this year’s legislative session ended.

Representatives for the two cities are defending their positions, setting up a potential standoff on whether Uber and Lyft should be regulated by the Public Service Commission, or by local governments in the cities where they operate.

For cities without Uber service, it’s unclear if or when Uber or a similar transportation company will arrive, Al.com reported.

The Huntsville city legal department, in a lengthy statement, said the vehicle-for-hire industry “is a largely local business” which competes with taxi cab companies that must adhere to local ordinances and pay the city’s business license fee.

Mobile City Councilman John Williams said the city worked with Uber to negotiate a local agreement and made concessions to the ride-sharing company. “I don’t know what their beef is,” he said.

Stimpson, Mobile’s mayor, said any insinuation that Mobile should be blamed for the legislation’s failure this session, “is not the truth.”

Huntsville and Mobile officials requested that the two cities be carved out of the state legislation, but that request was rejected.

“Cities were left to either accept the legislation or to continue to advocate for local concerns,” according to the Huntsville legal department’s statement forwarded to AL.com by city spokeswoman Kelly Schrimsher. “Several cities elected to voice their concerns and we are grateful our state representatives listened.”

Battle, the Huntsville mayor, said in a statement last week that the city wasn’t attempting to thwart Uber from operating in other Alabama cities. “Transportation systems like Uber and Lyft are important to every corner and every part of Alabama,” Battle said in the statement.

Stimpson, during Wednesday’s Mobile City Council meeting, said that his city has also backed Uber’s interests in expanding statewide.

However, he said that the city has told Uber before that they wanted to be grandfathered into the state legislation because of their support in the local ordinance that was adopted about two years ago.

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