By Elizabeth Barber
BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on Friday proposed legislation that would bring new oversight of popular ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft by requiring them to obtain permits in order to operate in the state.
A growing network of ride-sharing companies, which let customers summon cars by tapping their smartphones, already operates in Massachusetts. But critics have raised concerns about whether passengers using these services have the same protections as taxi riders.
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"A diverse transportation network is key to our future economic growth, and our collaboration will ensure customers have safe and reliable choices when they travel," said Baker, a Republican. He called the new regulations a way to "embrace innovation and protect and serve consumers."
Under the proposal, which would need to be approved by the state legislature, ride-sharing companies would have to require their cars to carry at least $1 million in insurance coverage and to perform background checks on all drivers, who must be at least 21 years old.
Ride-sharing companies would be regulated by the same state agency that regulates private buses.
Uber said in a statement that the legislation would allow it "to continue offering Massachusetts safe, reliable transportation options and opportunities to earn a living with greater flexibility."
Taxi companies have been fierce opponents of ride-sharing services, claiming they siphon customers without having to go through the expensive process of obtaining taxi medallions.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Emily Stephenson)