ALBANY - The state Senate voted Monday to allow ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to expand across New York, but the bill differs from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's preferred plan.
The Republican-controlled voted 53-5 to approve the bill, which would require the state Department of Motor Vehicles to regulate ride-hailing companies, clearing the way for them to expand outside of New York City.
But it's not yet a done deal: The Senate bill has key differences from Cuomo's proposal, and it doesn't have an Assembly sponsor.
"This is just critical for upstate New York," said Sen. Rich Funke, R-Perinton, Monroe County.
Uber and Lyft, which allow users to summon a driver through an app on their smartphone, have lobbied to expand across New York, seeing Buffalo, Rochester and other upstate cities as major untapped markets.
Both companies currently operate in New York City under the city's taxi laws. But insurance laws in New York have complicated their ability to expand elsewhere.
Cuomo unveiled his ride-hailing proposal in his $152.3 billion budget proposal last month. It would make key changes to state insurance law to allow the companies take out group policies for its drivers, who generally use their personal vehicles.
Like Cuomo's proposal, the Senate bill -- sponsored by Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, Otsego County -- would grant regulatory power to the state. And it would direct a portion of the per-ride tax to public-transit systems and the rest to the state.
But the Senate's bill includes a lower tax: 2 percent, compared to 5.5 percent in Cuomo's.
The Senate's vote drew praise from various business groups, while a coalition of taxi companies pushed back, calling the Senate vote a "waste of time."
The Upstate Transportation Association, which includes taxi companies and insurers, has called on the state to require ride-hailing drivers to submit to fingerprint background checks.
"By refusing to support fingerprint background checks, the senators who approved this bill have gone soft on public safety, tarnished their legislative records and capitulated to Uber’s high-priced lobbyists," John Tomassi, the group's president, said in a statement.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said the Assembly is still formulating its ride-hailing proposal.
"The Senate is a house of this Legislature. They have the right to put that forward," he said, adding he's hopeful the sides can reach an agreement.
Cuomo and state lawmakers face a March 31 deadline to have a final state budget in place.
Includes reporting by Albany Bureau Chief Joseph Spector.