A few months ago, in the midst of Congress working towards addressing the coronavirus pandemic, a piece of legislation called Sami’s Law passed the United States House of Representatives without much fanfare. The bill aims at providing ridesharing passengers with stronger safety measures and it is named after the tragic death of a student in South Carolina who got into a vehicle with someone impersonating a rideshare driver. And while this legislation was introduced with the best of intentions, it unfortunately creates more problems than it solves.
This bill is a first of its kind, establishing a new advisory council that would be overseen by the Secretary of Transportation, which would be in place for at least twelve years before it is reevaluated again. Beyond this, it would create new and extreme regulations on private ridesharing companies, which have already been hard at work developing and implementing enhanced safety features for customers and drivers alike.
For example, a few of the safety measures that these companies are using include requiring a comprehensive background check to be passed by all drivers before they can begin offering rides, allowing users to create and utilize a safety pin that drivers must confirm before the app allows the ride to start, and giving people the ability to call 911 during their ride in case of an emergency. Ridesharing companies have proven that they are adapting and that safety is their top priority for everyone they serve. More importantly, they have shown that they are taking the initiative to consistently create and refine new safety innovations, showing that they don’t need the government to intervene. However, House Democrats felt differently when they introduced and irresponsibly passed Sami’s Law earlier in the summer before considering what impact it may have on the industry and those who depend on it.
This type of legislation is so nuanced, and there has never even been a bill quite like it considered by the United States Senate before. This is for good reason – private businesses don’t need the government telling them how to do their job, especially when they are already doing the job well and providing customers with everything they need to stay safe.
Unnecessary government overreach is hardly ever the solution to solving any problem, and as this bill progresses to the Senate Commerce Committee, hopefully the members of this committee will recognize that bureaucratic red tape is ineffective. Thankfully, our home-state Senator Roger Wicker, who is the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has always been a strong champion for deregulation. I am confident that with his leadership, this legislation will not move forward.
Sami’s Law is well-meaning, but it ultimately misses the mark. Few problems are solved with more regulation, especially in an instance like this where free markets are already addressing the issue of their own accord. Instead of trying to chart the course for an entire industry, Congress would best serve the ridesharing industry and its customers by stepping back and allowing the innovation already underway to come to fruition.
As conservatives, we must advocate for less government and freer enterprise. Private companies that have put forward good procedures should not be punished with government regulation.
Arnie Hederman is a partner in Clearwater Strategies.