Article VIA NYDailyNews:
BY KEN LOVETT
Here is an expanded version of the third item from my “Albany Insider” column on Monday:
Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft spent nearly $1 million combined during the first six months of 2016 to lobby for a bill that would have allowed them to expand to upstate.
But the spending didn‘t pay off as the lawmakers ended the state legislative session in June without taking action on the bill. The bill died, according to sources, after the powerful state trial lawyers pushed for more comprehensive insurance coverage that Uber opposed.
Lobbying expenditures between January and July by opponents of the bill paled by comparison.
John Tomassi, president of the Upstate Transportation Association, which opposed the bill, called the ride-sharing industry’s spending “kind of mind-boggling.“
Uber officials says many of the lobbyists were first hired in the summer of 2015 while the company was fighting with Mayor de Blasio, who was looking to cap its growth.
Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang defended the hefty spending on lobbying.
“Seventy-five percent of New Yorkers support ridesharing and elected officials, small business owners, clergy members and law enforcement officials are clamoring for the service in their communities,” Anfang said. “Yet, due to Albany dysfunction, New York State remains one of the last places in the country without ridesharing, and having a presence in Albany is one of the many tactics we are employing to ensure that the governor and the Legislature understand what’s at stake.”
According to state records, 10 registered companies were paid a combined $765,268 by Uber to lobby during the first six months of 2016, including $266,307 that went to Red Horse Strategies for direct mail and radio ads.
Lyft, meanwhile, spent $190,000 on lobbying beween January and July, records show.
Opponents of the bill spent far less cumulatively. The Committee For Taxi Safety spent $189,000 on lobbying, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade $114,000, and the Association on Independent Living $23,344.
Other groups like the state trial lawyers association and the Business Council of New York State also lobbied on the bill, but it’s unclear how much was spent on the issue since they also worked on a host of unrelated legislation.
Tomassi said his group opposed the bill because it didn’t include the same provisions for background checks and fingerprinting of Uber and Lyft drivers that traditional taxi drivers must undergo.
Read more at NYDailyNews…