By Stewart Lewis–
Two companies have revolutionized after-dark transportation over the past few years and, in the process, issued warning orders to taxi companies who have had a monopoly on late night transportation for decades. Taxi companies have taken notice; they understand the threat that technology coupled with creativity, cleanliness and courtesy brings to them. So, taxi companies called on their friends in Frankfort in an attempt to end the rise of companies like Uber and Lyft in the state of Kentucky.
Uber and Lyft, two innovative ridesharing companies, are about to be over-regulated by our state government. This knee-jerk regulation will jeopardize Kentucky’s economic present and limit our economic future.
In an Associated Press report, the Department of Vehicle Regulation will impose “emergency regulations,” which would reclassify Uber and Lyft as taxi companies. Why? Because taxi companies complained that ridesharing firms were not subject to the same requirements as they are. But the taxi barons’ stated complaints poorly mask their opposition to innovation in their industry.
Taxi companies in other cities and states have been pushing legislation to keep their monopolistic hold. Taxi companies can’t survive when other companies come along and do the same job – only in a cleaner, friendlier and cheaper way – so they must back anti-free market legislation to stay in business.
Taxi companies are afraid of companies like Uber and Lyft, for good reason. The last time I was in a yellow taxi, it smelled of the vomit from a previous occupant, had ripped seats, and the driver took us on a long route to run up the meter. The first time I used Lyft, the driver had a box of snacks and a cooler of bottled water, and we were in a new, clean car.
Kentucky’s blatantly anti-innovation “emergency regulations” are modeled after similar laws from places where overregulation is destroying their economies. After receiving cease and desist orders in Detroit this past February, Uber and its drivers were forced to wait for the city to update their vehicle-for-hire regulations. Detroit is a bankrupt ghost town that businesses and residents have fled.
Similarly, in California, Lyft and Uber were forced to jump through insurance hoops thanks to their state legislature. It is interesting to note that Uber is headquartered in San Francisco, which, for the geographically challenged, is in California. California’s blatant anti-business climate against companies headquartered there most recently resulted in the loss of potential jobs with innovator Tesla. Companies and taxpayers are fleeing California in a mass exodus to more business-friendly, neighboring states.
Jobs are already leaving Kentucky for greener pastures. In late April, Toyota announced it would shutter their engineering headquarters in Erlanger, sending around 1,500 jobs to Plano, Texas. As of July, only four other states have a higher unemployment rate than Kentucky.
As long as Governor Steve Beshear, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (who proclaims herself Kentucky’s “Chief Business Officer”) and the Kentucky House of Representatives (held by Democrats for over 90 years) do nothing while overregulation strangles innovation, Kentucky will continue to languish. As long as they perpetuate this anti-job growth climate, Kentucky will be left behind as companies and industries look towards business-friendly, job-creating states. As long as they stand by, the creation, growth and security of Kentucky jobs will continue to evade us.
Beshear, Grimes and House Democrats must stop whistling past the graveyard as Kentucky falls further behind. Or they should get out of the way and let those who understand job growth and the need for innovation lead.