Uber

California State Senator Doesn't Want You to Think His Brothers Running a Taxi Company Influences His Bottling up Bills that Would Make Things Easier for Uber Drivers

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Uber and other companies in its ridehail space have learned, as I've written, that to be is to lobby.

But lobbying your state legislature can get tricky when important committee leaders have family members in the very businesses you are busy out-competing.

The Los Angeles Times reports today about how two bills that would make life easier for Uber drivers are being held up in Senate committee by Sen. Ben Hueso, chair of the Senate's Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

Hueso's brothers Alfredo and Jose Hueso just happen to run a cab company, USA Cabs, in San Diego who have sued to force Uber drivers to do something that one of the bills would exempt them from doing: register for commercial license plates.

The other bill Hueso is blocking from going for a vote, after passing the Assembly with almost no opposition (a single "no" vote between the two bills), "would allow rideshare companies to carpool, picking up multiple passengers with different destinations at the same time."

Sen. Hueso has long seemed to have an interest in legislating for his family's interests:

Three years ago while in the Assembly, Hueso introduced a bill to classify taxi drivers as independent contractors instead of employees of cab companies. The distinction matters because companies generally have to give their employees more generous wages, provide more insurance and meal breaks and allow for easier attempts to unionize among many other work rules.

Hueso has said his bill was motivated by a multi-year lawsuit against his brothers by drivers who argued they should have been treated as employees, not contractors. The bill never went anywhere.

While supporters of the bills in and out of the state legislature are frustrated Hueso won't even let a vote happen, Hueso wants you all to know that it's really not what you think:

"If you're going to write a story saying I'm doing this for my brother," he said, "it's going to be wrong."

Well, we'll never know what really goes on in a senator's heart, I suppose.

Steven Greenhut wrote earlier today on California attempts to pass laws that would allow Uber's contractors to unionize.