The Codcast: Crunch time for ride-hailing bills

The House and Senate have finally named their representatives to the conference committee that will hammer out a compromise on competing bills to regulate ride-hailing companies but whatever the final law looks like, it won’t placate everyone.

Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, one of the members on the panel that wrote the Senate’s final version, and Christopher English, policy analyst and project manager for the city of Boston who was appointed by Mayor Marty Walsh to chair the Taxi Advisory Commission overseeing changes in regulations, joined The Codcast to discuss the shifting landscape in the ride-for-hire industry.

Lesser, a committed supporter of the emerging ride-hailing technology, says the goal of the Senate was to “learn from our mistakes” in regulating taxis and find regulations that would not get in the way of the industry growth the way the medallion system did for taxis. One of the issues Lesser said received no opposition in the Senate was opening up Logan Airport and the state convention center in South Boston to drivers for Uber, Lyft, Fasten, and other transportation networks that people coming into Boston may expect.

Currently, Massport regulations, which were set up by statute, only allow Boston cab drivers to pick up at curbside at Logan and only limos and those with commercial livery plates can respond to pickup calls at the airport. Uber, for instance, only dispatches UberBlack drivers, those with commercial plates, though a passenger can get them for the cheaper UberX price.

Boston cabs also have exclusive reign at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston because of a surcharge on cab rides that helps pay off the bonds for the facility. The House bill leaves the Logan restrictions in place and puts a five-year sun-setting provision on the convention center rule. The Senate’s bill is silent on those restrictions, in effect opening those sites up to transportation network companies.

English says the Walsh administration is not explicitly in favor of opening up the visitor meccas to all drivers but indicated it needs to expand beyond Boston cabbies.

“The number of people coming in and out of Logan isn’t coming down anytime soon, so we want to make sure all the options are open to them,” he said.

English also said Walsh has some problems with the uniform, one-size-fits-all regulations in both bills, taking the power out of Boston’s hands to fashion rules that fit its unique status. One problem, English said, is the 10-cent a ride assessment on companies that goes into a local transportation infrastructure fund that gets handed out based on the origin of the ride. English says the fact it goes through the state general fund first is worrisome.

“Sometimes, the state doesn’t always fulfill their financial obligations,” he said in a bit of understatement. “There’s definitely a concern about that.”

Lesser said there will clearly be tweaks made to the measures, both in the conference committee as well as going forward, because of the fast-paced changes underway.

“This is the equivalent of regulating automobiles before the dawn of the Model T,” said Lesser.

JACK SULLIVAN

 

DALLAS POLICE SHOOTINGS

At least five police officers were killed and seven others and two civilians were wounded in Dallas by snipers in an ambush during a Black Lives Matter protest of the deadly police shootings of two men in Minnesota and Louisiana. (New York Times) President Obama, in Warsaw for NATO meetings, deplored the “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.” (New York Times) Boston police announced at least a short-term end to any one-officer patrols in reaction to the Dallas killings. (Boston Globe)

BEACON HILL 

Attorney General Maura Healey strikes a deal with IndyCar to refund a portion of the ticket money for the canceled Boston race. (WBUR)

More than 1,000 employees of the Cumberland Farms convenience store chain have signed a letter urging lawmakers to craft “clear and unambiguous” tobacco regulations as more cities and towns pass their own bylaws raising the age to buy tobacco and limiting sales, creating a confusing patchwork. (State House News Service)

Gov. Charlie Baker signs into law a bill that increases the fines for people caught dumping trash in the city. (Eagle-Tribune)

Baker plans to file an amendment to the state budget that would make clear that people in the country illegally would not be allowed to obtain driver’s licenses. (State House News)

Even passage of the so-called millionaires’ tax won’t solve the problems of a state budget in which revenue isn’t keep up with expenditures, says Scot Lehigh. (Boston Globe)

The House rejects a sales tax holiday as it passes a $915 million economic development bill. (State House News) The House approves an amendment filed by Rep. David Nangle of Lowell that would require nonprofits who purchase taxable property to continue paying taxes on the land for four years. (The Sun)

I’m okay: State Rep. Steven Howitt of Seekonk fell over backwards while sitting on a colleague’s chair on the House floor and smacked the back of his head on a desk. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS 

Supporters of a question on the Boston ballot this fall to adopt the Community Preservation Act say passage of the 1 percent property surtax can bring in millions in matching state funds to create more affordable housing for families being priced out of the city. (Greater Boston)

More on HuffPo hit on Ortiz: A conservative PAC has filed a public records request for emails and texts from key staffers in Boston mayor Marty Walsh’s administration that refer to the online news site following a piece that delivered a blistering attack on US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office is investigating City Hall. (Boston Herald)

What if Boston’s City Council approved an ordinance that no one knew about and few people cared about. That apparently is what happened with a new ordinance setting strict rules on sandwich street signs. (Boston Globe)

A Salem News editorial says public access to beaches on Plum Island in Newburyport should not be cut off by private landowners, even if their goal is to curb beach erosion.

A new report says 35 percent of Beverly residents are paying more than they can afford for housing. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL 

FBI Director James Comey testified before a congressional committee for more than four hours explaining why he recommended no charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for using a private server to conduct State Department business. (U.S. News & World Report)

ELECTIONS 

A meeting to find common ground between Donald Trump and Senate Republicans devolved into a contentious finger-pointing match as the presumptive GOP nominee called some lawmakers “loser” and “dishonest” and threatened to work for the defeat of Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is not up for reelection. (New York Times)

Florida, which has been a crucial swing state in recent presidential elections, may be slipping out of reach for Republicans. (Boston Globe)

Trump is coyly suggesting that if he wins, he may not serve. (New York Times)

A candidate for Barnstable County sheriff has lodged a criminal complaint against Special Sheriff Jeffrey Perry, a controversial former state representative who lost in a heated congressional race, stemming from a Facebook tiff. (Cape Cod Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY 

A combination of lower gas prices prompting more driving, new cars that are more costly to repair, and increasing health care costs are all being blamed for a spike in Massachusetts auto insurance premiums of 6 to 9 percent. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION 

Worcester Polytechnic Institute changes its legal team after controversy erupted over a blame-the-victim strategy in a rape case. (Telegram & Gazette)

A Lowell Sun editorial downplays talk that Jay Lang, the superintendent in Chelmsford, is raiding the Lowell schools for employees because he failed to land the top job there.

As states pare back funding for public colleges and universities, many of those schools are chasing out-of-state students so they can reap the benefits of the higher tuition those students pay to offset the decline. (New York Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The freefall of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes continues as federal regulators ban the one-time rock star of diagnostic testing from owning or operating a medical laboratory for two years. (STAT)

TRANSPORTATION 

The MBTA agrees to hold off pesticide spraying along tracks near a reservoir in Gloucester. (Gloucester Times)

CASINOS 

Taunton officials have filed a brief in a suit trying to block a Mashpee Wampanoag casino. The brief supports the federal decision to take land into trust in Taunton for the tribe. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS 

A man was killed and woman was wounded in a midday shooting on a busy Dorchester street. (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial says the Legislature should move to clear up any barriers to full audio and video recording of police encounters with residents.

The city of Lowell moves to dismiss a court case alleging police used unreliable informants in arresting 17 people. (The Sun)

A 39-year-old Westport woman was arrested and charged with larceny after police said she took her ex-boyfriend’s valuable dachsund to an animal shelter and told him it had run away. (Herald News)

MEDIA

David Skok, the Boston Globe’s managing editor for digital, is leaving the paper to return to Canada, giving former Metro columnist-turned-editor Brian McGrory another opportunity to pen a 700-word farewell memo, roughly the length of a column.