As it has been made clear countless times over the years, expanded government regulation is rarely the solution to any problem. Even when it is enacted with the best of intentions, it usually results in overreach that slows innovation, hurts consumers, and confounds existing problems even more. Despite this, earlier this summer the House of Representatives took steps toward doing just that by quickly passing a new bill without fully understanding its long-term impact.
In July, lost amid the flurry of headlines about the COVID-19 pandemic and protests across the nation, a new piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives called Sami’s Law. The bill, which is named after a college student who was tragically murdered after getting into a car with someone impersonating a rideshare driver, aims to provide an added layer of protection for rideshare passengers by implementing a number of new preventative measures, like requiring drivers to have more prominent markers on their vehicle identifying them as approved drivers. As well-meaning as this legislation may be however, lawmakers must reconsider a number of the provisions included in the bill, as several of them risk driving up costs for consumers and stifling innovation in the industry.
In addition to providing riders with driver’s names, pictures, car make and model, and license plate numbers, ridesharing companies are making strides toward improving safety without government interference. Companies require comprehensive background checks for all drivers, and emergency measures built directly into respective apps allow riders to contact 911 in case of an emergency. There are even features that allow riders to use a 4-digit PIN code that drivers must confirm before the ride can begin.
Despite this demonstrated progress, the bill even goes so far as to call for increased government scrutiny of ridesharing companies’ safety practices. It would create a new council within the Department of Transportation specifically to regulate these companies, and it requires the Government Accountability Office to review incidents of assault of riders and drivers. While this may seem like a good idea on paper, the reality is that it will create a new regulatory burden for ridesharing companies that will increase costs for them, and ultimately for the consumers who rely on their services.
This is precisely why Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate must carefully consider what the law would really mean for both riders and drivers before they vote on this legislation. Senator McConnell has always recognized the importance of properly maintaining the balance between sensible federal policy and overbearing government overreach into the private sector, and I am confident he will do so with this issue as well. If it passes in its current form, Senate Republicans risk going against their own beliefs and enabling an overbearing regulatory framework that replaces changes already underway in the industry and which ultimately hurts consumers.
Sami’s Law is a well-intentioned piece of legislation that aims to prevent further tragedies that mirror the one that inspired the bill. In its current form, though, the bill simply does not seem to be the right path forward. As evidenced by their quick actions in responding to the COVID-19 epidemic, ridesharing companies are ready to get ahead of the curve and protect both riders and drivers, and the government should allow them to do so without added regulatory concerns.
Katlyn Batts is a contributor at RedState.com.