Capitol compromise? Uber/Lyft bill could guide Minneapolis change

The wheels are spinning fast for legislators trying to fend off an Uber and Lyft exit from Minneapolis and possibly other parts of the state.

The May 1 deadline is now less than four weeks away, but a new state law that could help is full speed ahead.

House DFL leaders tell us they’re hopeful about getting a bill passed in the next month, but it would probably act more as a guide for Minneapolis, so they’re still asking the city council to make changes of their own.

"Well, here we go again," said Rep. Hodan Hassan, (DFL-Minneapolis).

For the second year in a row, a Minneapolis voice in the state House is spearheading the push to set a statewide standard for ride-hailing drivers.

"Drivers' voices have been taken away because the scales are not balanced," Rep. Hassan said.

To balance the scales, the Minnesota Department of Labor looked into what it would take to get drivers above $15 an hour.

They recommended a minimum wage of 89 cents per mile and 49 cents per minute, slightly more than drivers earn right now.

The Minneapolis City Council hadn’t seen that report when it approved minimums at $1.40 per mile and 51 cents per minute, which prompted Uber and Lyft to say they’d leave town when it takes effect May 1.

A Senate bill would set minimums at $1.39 per minute and 49 cents per mile.

And then there’s Rep. Hodan Hassan’s bill. It leaves those numbers blank for now. But it implements 24 recommendations from the governor’s task force that’s met over the last two years, looking for common ground.

And yet it still may not lead to an agreement.

"I want to commend the House," said Joel Carlson, a longtime lobbyist for Uber. "Actually, they actively participated in that task force. The Senate? Not so much."

Uber and Lyft and Gov. Tim Walz says the Senate bill’s author, Sen. Omar Fateh, (DFL-Minneapolis), isn’t participating in negotiations to get everyone on the same road.

So a compromise bill might need Republican votes.

They want Democrats to go farther and override what Minneapolis is on the verge of doing by passing a state law preempting the city’s ordinance.

"They're pressuring the city council to change four votes," said Rep. Pat Garofalo, (R-Farmington). "I agree with that. However, the Democrats need a plan B. They cannot rely exclusively on the city council is going to do the right thing, or it's going to shut down May 1."

Democrats told us preemption is not on the table right now, but they want the Minneapolis City Council to preempt itself and implement wages that wouldn’t be as disruptive.