The state last year adopted a new law that officially legalized ride-hailing app companies and regulates them, but it didn’t include a fingerprinting requirement after Uber and other companies strongly objected.
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, a Democrat, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would require prospective drivers to go through a national criminal records check.
Kilmartin had opposed last year’s legislation and asked Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo to veto it, telling her in a letter that there was “no plausible reason” why ride-hailing companies should be exempt from the fingerprint checks required for many occupations, from nursery school operators to massage therapists. Raimondo signed the bill into law a few days later.
Kilmartin said Thursday that his own proposal treats everyone the same and ensures public safety. He said he is troubled by Uber’s insistence on using a third-party private company, San Francisco-based Checkr, to do its background checks.
“We need an independent source, and with the FBI, there is no better when it comes to background checks,” Kilmartin said.
Uber opposes Kilmartin’s bill. A group that represents taxi operators supports it.
“Nationally, we’re pushing for fingerprinting for all ground transportation,” said Rick Szilagyi, CEO of the New England Livery Association. “It’s the gold standard for conducting a proper background check.”
Massachusetts began running Uber and Lyft drivers through stringent statewide background checks this year, designed in part to bar registered sex offenders from driving. Connecticut is also considering a fingerprint requirement in pending legislation.
Rhode Island’s law, which was enacted in the summer and took effect in the fall, placed ride-hailing app companies under the oversight of the state’s public utilities commission, the same agency that regulates traditional taxi operators.
It requires the companies to do their own driver background checks, set minimum insurance requirements and pay an annual $30,000 permit if they have 200 or more drivers.
Uber had strongly opposed earlier legislation that would have required its drivers to be fingerprinted.