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State lawmaker calls on feds to join Seattle taxi regulation fray


A state lawmaker from southwest Washington is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look at the Seattle City Council’s plans to regulate Uber and other so-called ride-share companies.

Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) has sent a letter to the FTC requesting review and comments on the proposed rules to limit the number of drivers that can be on the road at any one time for the new services.

“We just want to make sure that when you’ve got something new and innovative that’s a private sector solution to the congestion problems in Seattle, that it’s not being unfairly regulated out of existence or limited,” Orcutt tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show.

The City Council is set to vote on a new measure that would limit to 150 the number of drivers that can be on the road at one time for each of the services, and impose new fees on both drivers and the companies. The companies have argued the new restrictions would cripple the nascent businesses and unfairly protect the taxi industry.

“I want to make sure they aren’t being unfairly treated,” says Orcutt, the ranking member on the House Transportation Committee. “I do think there is a real big risk of them treating the rideshare folks unfairly.”

Orcutt tells the FTC in the letter he is “troubled that the Seattle City Council is considering rules that impede market place competition, re-enforce an arbitrary and monopolistic playing field for taxi cab services, and limit the transportation services that the City of Seattle’s own demand study showed residents want overwhelming[ly].”

While state lawmakers could propose legislation trumping Seattle’s efforts to regulate transportation companies, Orcutt says he is hopeful that won’t be necessary.

“I’m kind of hoping that things will work themselves out, FTC looks at this, Seattle maybe reconsiders what they are doing and tries to find something that does accommodate everybody and all of the options out there,” he says.

Orcutt says even though he represents southwest Washington, his involvement is logical because the City of Seattle and King County regularly seek funding for public transit to help relieve congestion, and the new regulations would significantly limit a viable transportation solution.

“Why are they asking my citizens to pay more for their vehicle licensing fees to fund public transportation when they’re putting regulations out there that might be shutting down private sector solutions?”

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed regulations Monday, March 17.

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