See Who Backs Uber, Lyft

April 8 , 2015

Wisconsin legislators are pushing bills to license companies like Uber and Lyft that provide smartphone ridesharing services. The bills would then prohibit local governments from enacting their own regulations on these companies. The bills have the backing of insurers, lawyers and tavern interests. Uber is lobbying for the bills, which are supportive of the ridesharing companies.

The measures, Assembly Bill 143 and Senate Bill 106, regulate so-called transportation networking companies. Such companies provide online ridesharing services where drivers or car owners can register to provide rides for fare-paying customers. AB143 received a public hearing on April 2 before the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations, which recommended it Wednesday for final approval by the full legislature.

Both measures, which were introduced with bipartisan support from more than three dozen Assembly and Senate lawmakers, create a state licensing program with driver screening, liability insurance, fare disclosure and other requirements, and impose penalties of up to $1,000 for violations.

Support for the measures was led by state and federal insurance trade groups and several large insurers, including American Family, Sentry and State Farm; the Wisconsin Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers; and the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

Insurance, legal and tavern interests contributed a total of $2.2 million between January 2011, and Oct. 20, 2014, to current Democratic and Republican legislators who will decide the fate of the bills in the coming months.

During the same period, the bills’ authors, Republican Sen. Paul Farrow, of Pewaukee, received $24,143, and GOP Rep. Tyler August, of Lake Geneva, accepted $8,820 from the three special interest groups that support the bills.

Among the leading contributors to Farrow and August from the special interests that back the bills was the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, whose political action committee contributed $2,000 to Farrow and $750 to August between January 2011, and Oct. 20, 2014.

The proposals are opposed by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, which represents about 600 cities and villages, and the city of Madison, because the bills prevent communities from enacting local ordinances stricter than state law. The measures are also opposed by the taxi industry because these ridesharing businesses are often less regulated, have less overhead and cut into the taxi industry’s business.

Other top contributors to Farrow during this period from these special interests were Pete Drees, owner of Moe’s Southwest Grill in Pewaukee, $1,253, and Pewaukee insurance executive David Young, $1,190. Other top contributors to August during this period from these special interests were Chris and Patricia Marsicano, owners of the Village Supper Club in Delavan, $925, and Frederick Faytle, an American Family insurance agent in Delavan, $900.