Jackson County

Uber for Ocean Springs? State may make the decision

In this Dec. 16, 2015, file photo, a man leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco.
In this Dec. 16, 2015, file photo, a man leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. AP

OCEAN SPRINGS -- The city's Economic Development Council is giving Uber a nod with some reservations, having taken a look at the issue at the request of city leaders.

Mayor Connie Moran wanted Ocean Springs to consider Uber -- the car-for-hire company hailed with a cellphone app -- after using the service in other cities, and the Board of Aldermen assigned the issue to the EDC.

Seeking to thoroughly understand complaints last summer against Uber, the EDC met with Wes Pffeifer, director of Harrison County's Motor Vehicle For Hire Authority, which opposed Uber last year. It also looked at bills moving through the Legislature.

Highlights of EDC's findings for city aldermen:

-- Two bills in the Legislature on the issue of allowing transportation network companies, such as Uber, to function in the state have a shot at passing. If one does, the state would take over regulation from cities and counties and send the companies to the Mississippi Insurance Department for assessed fees and requirements on liability insurance and background checks. Moran said she'd be happy to relinquish her city's 20-page taxi ordinance.

-- The Legislature appears to be clearing up concerns the Harrison County group had, including a way to ensure app-driven transportation networks pay the same $3 airport fee that taxis pay.

-- The state would designate such transportation networks as technology companies, because they run off of apps, rather than a personal business. Drivers wouldn't be employees, but rather contractors with the company.

-- A transportation network company isn't subject to freedom-of-information requests.

-- The EDC would like to see the Legislature require cars working under Uber to be inspected, with penalties assessed if Uber should be in non-compliance on background checks of drivers. It also wants random selection of Uber drivers for background checks by the state.