BEST & WORST BILLS of 2016: Uber Killer Among Worst Bills

May 17, 2016

Radical Uber Killing Bill Would Harm Rhode Island’s Already Struggling Families

Providence, RI — While Rhode Island ranks 48th on the Jobs and Opportunity Index (JOI), demonstrating the deep need for new work within our state, the House is considering a bill that would kill ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft. These services are an efficient and innovative part of Rhode Island’s economy, and should be given a chance to prosper according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today updated its list of the BEST and WORST bills of the 2016 General Assembly session.

By adding unreasonable burdens, H8044, sponsored by House Majority Whip Rep. Jay Edwards (D, Portsmouth), would impose heavy regulations and fees for transportation network companies (like Uber), including (among other things) $150 fees for each driver, unusual insurance regulations, bans against cash use, bans on driver gun licensing, and disability mandates. As seen in other states, legislation like this could force Uber or Lyft to leave the Ocean State due to government interference.
At a higher level, once again General Assembly lawmakers in 2016 are on track to continue a multi-year, negative trend of public policy that will reduce economic justice for Rhode Islanders. This according to the 2016 General Assembly Freedom Index, an interactive, live tool published by the nonpartisan Center.
Also of note, 14 individual lawmakers currently have scores above zero, while in 2015 not a single Representative or Senator earned a positive score.
Lawmakers and the public are encouraged to visit the Legislation tab on the 2016 Freedom Index to determine the bill rankings for the majority of bills that have been rated, but not yet voted on. The “Summary” tab displays individual lawmaker scores.
Summary: As of May, of the 324 bills that have qualified for the index:
  • 234 bills are rated negatively, with only 87 bills receiving a positive score, and 3 yet to receive a rating
  • The negative bills would total a (-370) cumulative score, if all were to be voted on, while the positive bills would produce a +125 score, resulting in a net (-245)overall General Assembly rating
  • Led by Senator John Pagliarini (R, Portsmouth) just 14 of 113 lawmakers can currently boast a positive individual score, consisting of 1 Democrat, 11 Republicans, and 2 Independents; with 4 in the Senate and 10 in the House
Although not all 2016 bills have received final ratings, it is clear that the few positive pieces of legislation are massively outweighed by the much greater number of negative bills, resulting in a net negative impact, as has occurred in all prior years evaluated. The Center notes that not all bills have received final reviews and that the public should check back regularly for updated bill ratings and legislator rankings.
Additional resources are available on the main RI Freedom Index page, including a number of online and interactive tools and information for users, with links to scores from prior years:

Policy Reform: Reduce Occupational Licensing Mandates

Occupational licensing laws hurt low income workers in Rhody

The quid-pro-quo cycle of Cronyism

The quid-pro-quo cycle of Cronyism

Rhode Island workers should be free of unnecessary fees and licensing requirements when pursuing an opportunity to earn a living, especially lower income workers hoping to embark on a new career path. Consumers will enjoy lower prices when some of these barriers are torn down.


With the 2nd most burdensome level in New England and 13th nationally, Rhode Island makes it more difficult and costly for many of us to embark on new careers. During these trouble economic times in the Ocean State, it is especially important that RI workers have enhanced freedom and face fewer barriers when beginning gainful employment.

A. Eliminate the Annual Minimum Corporate (Franchise) Tax

While formally a tax, this entrepreneur-killing law is really more of a licensing fee. It requires all corporate entities – brand new or not; profitable or not – to pay a minimum fee of $500 per year to the state in order to retain its license to do business – yet another disincentive to start a business that can create jobs.

B. Other Occupational Licensing Reforms:

  1.  Create a “sunrise” provision that requires advocates of new licensing proposals to prove their need before they are approved.
  2.   Ensure that all licensing boards have a super-majority of members drawn from the general public rather than the profession itself.
  3.   Replace mandatory licensing with voluntary certification in professions that do not directly affect the safety of the general public.
  4.   Implement a “sunset” provision that requires all other current licensing laws to expire, unless they are periodically reauthorized after a rigorous review process.
  5.   Enact legislation protecting the right to earn a living.

View the Center’s “Occupational Licensing” policy brief here … 

View Occupational Licensing Study by the Institute for Justice … “(Licensing) Boards Behaving Badly”