ALBANY - Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft may be able to launch across New York before the July 4 holiday -- if lawmakers act soon.
More than 20 lawmakers have signed onto a bill changing a single word in the state's newly approved ride-hailing law, a minor tweak that would allow Uber, Lyft and similar companies to launch in the days ahead of Independence Day.
The move, according to the bill's sponsors, would ensure ride-hailing services are available for those seeking a sober ride home from holiday festivities.
Without the change, the ride-hailing law wouldn't take effect until July 9 — a consequence of this year's state budget being nine days late.
"The intent always was to have this in place for the July 4 celebrations and the problems that go along with that," said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County, the bill's sponsor.
"Based on the fact that the budget was pushed back, it pushed us past the holiday, which I don't think anyone intended, and it should be corrected."
The state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached consensus on a statewide ride-hailing law in late March, agreeing to include it in the state's $153 billion budget, which was due April 1.
The measure makes changes to state insurance law and sets up a regulatory structure that will allow Uber, Lyft and similar companies to expand upstate and in the New York City suburbs.
But Cuomo and lawmakers struggled to come to a deal on other, more-contentious areas of the budget, blowing past the deadline before finally approving a spending plan April 9.
Cuomo signed the ride-hailing portion of the budget April 10, starting a 90-day clock for it to take it effect — which pushed it past July 4.
Ranzenhofer's bill would tweak the day the measure would take effect, changing it from the 90th day after it was signed (July 9) to the 80th (June 29).
The measure picked up key support late last week, when Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, introduced it in the Assembly.
So far, 13 senators and nine Assembly members have signed on to the bill. Ranzenhofer said he has assurances the Senate will put it to a vote.
In a statement, Cahill said he will "work to fast track" the bill through the Assembly.
"It will then be up to the (ride-hailing companies) to bring their product to market all over upstate New York,” Cahill said.
The ride-hailing law set up a statewide regulatory structure for companies like Uber and Lyft, which allow riders to summon a driver through an application on their mobile phone.
The law opened the door for the companies to expand outside of New York City, where they already operate under the city's taxi laws.
Counties and four large cities — Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers and Syracuse — have the ability to opt out of the law, if they so choose.
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