PHOENIX — Arizona regulators on Wednesday stopped issuing citations to drivers for transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft as the Legislature works to craft a new law to allow the companies to operate legally, new Weights and Measures Director Andy Tobin said.
Tobin ordered the ticketing stopped to let the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey work on a proposal that allows the new and growing industry to operate legally while protecting consumers. He said he will ask the state's lawyers to drop citations already issued.
Tobin said Ducey agrees that stopping the citations makes sense as a deal is worked out. One of Ducey's first acts when he became governor earlier this month was to freeze new state regulations, and he's promised to work to ease existing regulations on business.
"We don't want to be spending taxpayer dollars in court when what we're trying to do is allow the policy-making process to work," Tobin said Wednesday evening. "I don't think you get your best agreements by sitting in court."
The Legislature passed a bill last year that would have exempted the new app-based transportation companies from insurance regulations imposed on traditional taxi and livery companies. It was vetoed by then-Gov. Jan Brewer, who said it failed to protect consumers.
The companies, which call themselves "ridesharing services," however, have continued to operate. Weights and Measures had issued nearly 100 citations by November to drivers who did not have proper commercial licenses or insurance. Many of those have been mediated or settled, but the remainder will be dropped.
Traditional taxi and livery companies oppose the current business model for the new transportation services. They argue that drivers are only covered by company insurance when they're on the way to pick up a passenger who requests a ride using an online app or driving that passenger to their destination.
That leaves the public vulnerable because there are times when the driver isn't covered by the company's insurance, said David Leibowitz, who represents Total Transit. For instance, a driver who picks up a fare outside the app isn't covered, he said.
"There are gaps in the Uber insurance even where there is a passenger in the car, and there is no Uber insurance when you're driving around trying to position yourself," Leibowitz said. "You find Total Transit's insurance with no gaps — you look up an Uber driver and you see his personal insurance."
Total Transit operates Discount Cab in Phoenix and has its own app. It's 200 drivers are covered by commercial insurance.
San Francisco-based Uber vowed to press ahead with efforts to expand operations in Arizona after Brewer's April 24 veto. Efforts to reach Uber for comment late Wednesday were not immediately successful.
Last year's fight over the so-called Uber bill was one of the bigger issues of contention within the state Legislature. Democrats and Republicans were split within their own parties. Proponents of the bill said government should stay out of the way and let new companies like Uber innovate, while opponents said the lack of regulations pose a public safety threat.