Lawyers for ride-hailing companies Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. subsidiary Rasier-CA are urging a state agency not to adopt a driver-fingerprint requirement because the California Legislature has not mandated the practice.
State lawmakers have declined to include a fingerprint requirement in at least five ride-hailing bills passed or introduced over the last four years, a lawyer for Lyft told the California Public Utilities Commission in documents released Monday.
“Against this background, it would be highly inappropriate for the commission to now undermine the Legislature’s determination and to layer on top of the Legislature-imposed commercial background check requirement a new, duplicative fingerprint background check requirement,” Daniel Rockey, a Bryan Cave partner in San Francisco, wrote in Lyft’s submission to the commission. “Such a double-background check requirement would be unprecedented—to Lyft’s knowledge no other for-hire drivers in any jurisdiction in the U.S. are subject to such a double background check requirement. It would also be directly contrary to legislative intent and, as explained below, would serve no valid regulatory purpose.”
The commission, charged with regulating so-called transportation network companies, or TNCs, invited public comments on the controversial issue of driver fingerprinting last year with plans to potentially issue new rules by the end of 2017.
Uber and Lyft have fought mandated fingerprint checks throughout the country, even dropping service in Austin, Texas, last year after voters there approved the screening technique. The companies say their driver background checks are sufficient. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., now a Covington & Burling partner, last year advocated for Uber in urging state and local leaders not to adopt fingerprint requirements.
Critics, including San Francisco transportation officials and taxi associations—whose members are required to be fingerprinted—contend Uber and Lyft don’t want the costs or the wait that fingerprinting require.
“We ask the commission to determine what is more important. Ensuring public safety or the economic success of these multibillion-dollar ride-hailing companies?” Edward Reiskin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, wrote. “We argue that the balance should tip in favor of protecting TNC customers and the public instead of profits.”
We’ve posted links below to comments the Public Utilities Commission released Monday: