Massachusetts Decides to Regulate Uber and Lyft without Fingerprint Checks

By Michael Klazema on 8/9/2016

The question of whether or not Uber and Lyft drivers should go through fingerprint background checks is often cited as the biggest conversation of 2016 in the background check industry. Recently, Massachusetts made another contribution to the dialogue: state lawmakers, who have been considering legislation to regulate the ridesharing industry for some time, agreed on a bill and sent it to Governor Charlie Baker.

The bill that the State Senate and the House of Representatives agreed on would regulate ridesharing companies in several ways.

The bill would require ridesharing companies to pay a per-ride fee to operate in the state. The fee would equate to 20 cents per ride and the proceeds would go to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the cities and towns in which the services operate, and the taxi and livery industries. One of the big concerns cited in coverage about Uber and Lyft is that they are pulling away business from taxi businesses, largely because they don't have to follow the same regulations. If passed, the Massachusetts law would direct some proceeds from the ridesharing fee to taxi companies.

The bill would require all ridesharing drivers for any service to go through two separate background checks. The first set of background checks would be conducted by the ridesharing companies themselves. Uber and Lyft already claim to run thorough background checks in-house. The second background check would be conducted by the state. If signed into the law by the governor, the bill will not require ridesharing drivers to undergo fingerprint background checks.

That facet of the legislation has drawn praise from Uber and Lyft but has garnered ire from other sources. According to a report from the Boston Globe, Boston's police commissioner believes that cutting fingerprint background checks out of the legislation is a major misstep. The commissioner believes that fingerprint checks would go a long way toward helping keep sex offenders and violent criminals away from ridesharing passengers. All taxi drivers in Boston are required to go through fingerprint background checks, so even though the bill would redirect some of Uber and Lyft's revenues into the taxi industry coffers, it still wouldn't necessarily level the playing field regarding regulations, the commissioner stated.

The conversation will be continued by Governor Baker, who could make Massachusetts one of the first states to take a statewide stance on ridesharing regulations.


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