The Codcast: Ride-sharing regs redux

After several years of fits and stops, the Legislature finally passed a bill last summer that would  regulate transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft with an eye on safety for passengers.

While lawmakers gave the Department of Public Utilities a pretty big canvas to paint their regulations on, they mandated a few set-in-stone parameters such as state-run checks on criminal background and driver records.

But many argue the DPU went much further than the Legislature intended, icing out ex-offenders trying to get back on track and barring those with driving violations from decades ago. At a packed public hearing on Tuesday, rejected drivers offered story after story of youthful mistakes only to find that, while they could drive a cab, a school bus, or legally own a gun, they can’t pick up an Uber or Lyft passenger. Now they want the agency to revise its regulations and do it soon because, for many, this was their sole income.

Tom Maguire, general manager for Uber of New England, and Gavi Wolfe, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, joined The Codcast to offer their takes on why the regulations are hurting not only the individuals denied a right to work but the public which they claim isn’t really being protected by the regulations.

Maguire, who acknowledges Uber signed a memorandum of understanding with the DPU that included the regulations, said the indefinite “look-back” into people’s records was not the intent of the law and points to the 8,200 people who were denied certification, about 15 percent of those who applied. He’s urging state officials to rewrite the regulations to limit look-backs to seven years and make the appeals process more transparent and easier to navigate.

Wolfe says one of the problems with the long look-backs is the disproportionate effect on minorities, who have a much higher incidence of involvement with law enforcement, resulting in a higher rate of criminal records, many for nonviolent drug offenses. Wolfe said the criminal justice reform movement in the state centers around rehabilitating ex-offenders and making them employable, goals that can’t be met if they can’t get hired.

Wolfe also said the use by the DPU of so-called CWOFs – cases that result in a disposition of “continued without a finding” and often expunged after one year – runs counter to the intent of the plea. A CWOF is not a finding of guilt, Wolfe points out, and few, if any, other fields of employment use it as a measuring stick for suitability.

It is an interesting discussion about the evolving ride-hailing industry at the crossroads of the criminal justice system in the state.

–JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker shuffles the MBTA management team in what Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack calls a “double switch.” (CommonWealth)

The Senate passed a $40.8 billion budget plan amid considerable uncertainty about state revenues that could send lawmakers back to the drawing board. (Boston Globe)

The Globe’s Frank Phillips says with his penchant for patronage hiring after decrying the practice during his campaign, Gov. Charlie Baker is reprising comic strip figure Pogo’s famous declaration, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Baker criticizes a provision inserted into a Beacon Hill commission report that recommends allowing public employees convicted of crimes to keep some of their pension payouts, even if their conviction was related to their official duties. (Boston Herald)

Baker eases business concerns by saying he plans to reauthorize the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. (Salem News)

A Lowell Sun editorial tells lawmakers to leave the state’s film tax credit alone.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The chairman of Neighborhoods United, a coalition of neighborhood associations and crime watch groups in New Bedford  that works on public safety and quality of life initiatives, is quitting the organization out of frustration with city officials who fail to attend meetings to address continued violence. (Standard-Times)

Boston shows up in second place in a couple of categories in a study of what makes for good municipal government. (Governing)

A community charity fund run by Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson has accepted donations from a number of big Boston landlords, including one whose shoddy upkeep of his apartments made him a focus of a city councilor hearing three years ago. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Citing his campaign vows to prevent Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, a federal Appeals Court has declined to reinstate President Trump’s travel ban, a ruling the Department of Justice says will be appealede to the Supreme Court. (New York Times)

Gov. Dannel Malloy defiantly defends his leadership in Connecticut, despite the state’s deep fiscal woes and his low approval rating, saying he is confronting problems his predecessors allowed to fester. (Boston Globe)

Joe Biden dines at the No Name Restaurant with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren wants to extend the Blue Line to Lynn, and have the millionaire’s tax pay for it. (Lynn Item)

A GOP candidate for a congressional seat in Montana convincingly won a special election Thursday despite being charged with body-slamming a reporter who asked him questions about the Republican health care bill. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A development group is expected to close today on a $155 million deal to acquire the Suffolk Downs in East Boston racetrack, with plans for a massive mixed-used project including residential and retail components. (Boston Globe)

New data suggest tourism to the United States has dropped 11 percent since the election of Donald Trump while increasing elsewhere in the world by 6 percent. (U.S. News & World Report)

Shirley Leung makes a pitch to Aetna insurance to relocate from Connecticut to Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

General Dynamics now occupies three former General Electric buildings in Pittsfield. The mayor says it’s maybe time to call Plastics Avenue something different. (Berkshire Eagle)

EDUCATION

A Boston charter school teacher who was recognized as the top educator in the country with the National Teacher of Year award was snubbed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which voted down a motion to offer her congratulations. Union president Barbara Madeloni also rebuffed an effort to have the teacher offer remarks at the convention. (CommonWealth)

The Brockton School Committee is considering a strengthened policy that would prohibit immigration enforcement in the city’s schools by denying access to student records and physical entry into the buildings. (The Enterprise)

Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg tells graduates to create “purpose” in the world. (The Harvard Crimson)

TRANSPORTATION

Service on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line has become reliably poor. (Boston Globe)

An MIT study indicates people aren’t that enamored with the idea of self-driving cars. (WBUR)

The Massachusetts Senate approves a budget amendment examining high-speed rail between Springfield and Boston. (MassLive) Another budget amendment creates a working group looking at seasonal train service between New York City and Pittsfield. (Berkshire Eagle)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A group of Weymouth residents who oppose a proposed gas compressor station on the Fore River says independent testing shows air pollutants in the area already at a heightened level and the facility would increase that further. (Patriot Ledger)

The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Group set up to oversee the shutdown of the Pilgrim power plant got off to a rocky start after Angela O’Connor, chairman of the Department of Public Utilities, declined to allow a number of votes at the first meeting, including the choosing of a chairman for the panel. (Cape Cod Times)

State environmental officials have set a June 9 deadline for Falmouth officials to determine the source of a toxic contaminant found in a town drinking well and correct the problem. (Cape Cod Times)

Forecasters with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting a busier-than-usual hurricane season from the Atlantic Ocean because of warm surface temperatures. (New York Times)

CASINOS

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decides to assert itself more strongly in the debate over a pot of casino gambling tax money targeted for horse racing. The commission wants total control over the horse racing industry and is urging lawmakers to leave the pot of money alone. (CommonWealth)

MGM Springfield discloses that it is in talks with the city about building housing as part of its casino project at a new location. (MassLive)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    CommonWealth’s editors certainly have a distorted view of what’s important in “education” by elevating an unsuccessful “motion” at an MTA meeting to ridiculous heights, first in an article by Michael Jonas featuring a Who’s Who of pro-charter cheerleaders including the Democrats for Education Reform…a Political Action Committee…then a commentary by someone previously affiliated with the Democrats for Education Reform…a Political Action Committee…and now the first article is featured in The Daily Download. At the very same time, CommonWealth’s editors have not made any effort to educate their readers on the funding shortfall in the Foundation Budget…the mechanism the state uses to distribute aid to local public schools. There’s a legislative session going on that should have meeting the state’s obligation to properly fund local public schools under the 1993 Education Reform Act the top priority and CommonWealth’s editors should be focusing on that but aren’t. Why is that? And why are CommonWealth’s editors referring to Democrats for Education Reform as a “pro-charter organization” and an “education group” when in fact, Democrats for Education Reform is a big money Political Action Committee…a PAC? CommonWealth’s editors should call a PAC…a PAC.