A proposal to set mandatory pay levels for Connecticut rideshare drivers faltered in the state Senate Wednesday night when it was passed only after its substance was replaced with language ordering a task force to study the issue.
As advanced by the Labor and Public Employees Committee, the bill would have required rideshare companies like Uber, Lyft, and Doordash to pay drivers either $1.30 per mile and $36 per hour or at least 85% of each fare, not including fees, taxes, and tips.
Although the bill passed on a partisan 22-12 vote, those requirements were stripped in favor of a working group to study transparency and minimum wage standards for rideshare and delivery drivers. Sen. Julie Kushner, a Danbury Democrat who co-chairs the labor panel, said the study group could be used to inform future legislative action.
“We determined that there were many issues that have been raised about rideshare drivers and delivery drivers and that it would be useful for us to have a task force that brought together parties with different perspectives and work on the issue, study the issue, and determine what recommendations might be made,” she said.
The proposal represented the legislature’s most recent attempt to address what has become an annual push by rideshare drivers, who have clamored for better pay and benefits.
The task force treatment is a routine legislative tactic often used to provide consolation to proponents of bills that lack the support to be voted into law. Study group proposals are numerous and often seen as harmless. Sometimes the groups never materialize. Typically, they encounter little in the way of focused opposition.
That wasn’t the case Wednesday evening when Republican senators questioned and objected to the rideshare task force for an hour and a half. They expressed concerns about the scope of the task force and where it would lead.
“Again, I understand the concept of the task force, I’m just very concerned about what this task force is really looking into on this industry,” Sen. Jeff Gordon, R-Woodstock, said. “I don’t have anything against these companies or against the independent contractors, I just don’t see what it is this task force is really trying to do. I’m concerned about what it might be trying to do.”
Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said the decision to replace the bill with a task force represented a “rare and fortuitous” example of common sense winning the outcome. However, he viewed the proposed working group as a precursor to the eventual regulation of the rideshare industry.
“It is going to be just a stepping stone to get to where the underlying bill began,” Sampson said. “I think that the proponents of the underlying bill got a little ahead of themselves and realized that this was not going to be as easy as they thought and that’s why we are here taking a step back.”
The bill will now move to the House for consideration.