Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has returned unsigned a bill relating to private transportation services and drivers.
Bill 55, passed by the Honolulu City Council on Dec. 1, tightens rules for private transportation and ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, outlining driver and certification requirements.
In an attached letter to the council, Mayor Caldwell said he is troubled that the legislation does “not go far enough to protect the safety of the general public” and noted legal concerns that could lead to costly lawsuits again the city. He also stated his belief that “private transportation companies should be able to operate with less government regulation going forward.”
By returning Bill 55 unsigned, it becomes law without the mayor’s approval.
Read Mayor Caldwell’s letter below:
December 16, 2016
Dear Chair Martin and Councilmembers:
SUBJECT: Bill 55 (2016), CD1, FD1, Amending Ordinance 16-25, Relating to Private Transportation Services and Drivers
I am returning Bill 55 (2016), CD1, FD1 (“Bill 55” or “the Bill”), without my signature. I appreciate the Council’s continued efforts to fine-tune laws that promote public safety and that allow the private transportation companies, which include taxicab companies and transportation network companies, to co-exist and to fairly compete in the City and County of Honolulu.
While I support the intent and purpose of Bill 55, I remain troubled by certain of its aspects, especially those that do not go far enough to protect the safety of the general public. In addition, there are legal concerns that make it more likely that the Bill may be subjected to unnecessary legal challenges that may result in the payment by the City’s taxpayers of costly attorneys’ fees incurred by plaintiffs who prevail in those lawsuits.
Bill 55 limits the authority of the Director of Customer Service to ensure compliance and enforce its provision. Section 12-__.12 permits only a single inspection by the Director of a sampling of records in a given year that would confirm the private transportation company is in compliance with the provisions of Ordinance 16-25, as amended by Bill 55. In light of the fluctuating number of reported drivers by the private transportation companies in their public testimony, limiting the Director to a single annual audit of a private transportation company’s records may jeopardize the safety and welfare of its ridership and the general public.
In addition, Bill 55 does not require the private transportation company to recertify its drivers on a periodic basis. Bill 55 requires only that the private transportation company conduct a criminal background check every two years after the initial certification. Surely the other initial certification requirements contained in Section 12-__.5, which serve to assure public safety, are equally important, including maintaining a valid automobile insurance policy required by law, ensuring that a driver is both mentally and physically fit to be a private transportation driver, and providing an updated traffic violations bureau certified abstract. Bill 55 should require the private transportation companies to recertify their drivers based on all of these requirements at least every two years.
I am committed to working with the City Council to improve the private transportation company and driver laws, and I sincerely hope you will join me in doing so. I believe that private transportation companies should be able to operate with less government regulation going forward. I have therefore asked my Administration to continue to collaborate with the City Council, the taxicab companies and the transportation network companies in further amending Ordinance 16-25, as amended by Bill 55, through the consideration of Bill 65 (2016), to ensure public safety.
For the reasons stated above, I am returning Bill 55 (2016), CD1, FD1, unsigned and look forward to working with the City Council to further amend the law.