Suffolk Republicans, victim advocates and taxi and limousine companies called Thursday for Suffolk County to block ride-hailing services until the state prevents all registered sex offenders from driving for these services.
A bill introduced by Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) would stop companies such as Uber and Lyft from operating in the county because state law allows level-one sex offenders, the lowest tier, to drive for a ride-hailing service seven years after a conviction or completion of a prison sentence.
Level two and level three sex offenders are not allowed to drive for the services under the current law.
“I have deep concerns regarding registered sex offenders driving in this county,” Kennedy said at a news conference at the Hauppauge legislative building.
Bills from state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) and Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) to change state law are pending in the State Legislature. The session ends June 21.
Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, said that although level-one sex offenders are supposed to be the least likely to reoffend, they include convicted rapists and pedophiles.
“The issue is not with Uber and Lyft. The issue is a loophole that needs to be fixed,” she said.
Uber and Lyft representatives have said their companies support the state bills.
“Lyft is excited to launch our service across New York in two weeks. In the meantime, we’ll continue working with lawmakers as they explore updates to ride-sharing legislation,” Adrian Durbin, communications director for Lyft, said in a statement.
Ride-hailing services already operate on Long Island but can be ticketed for taxicab violations by county or local governments. Starting June 29, state legislation allows the services to operate statewide if counties don’t opt out.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has enthusiastically embraced Uber and Lyft as “game changers” for county efforts to attract and retain young people.
Bellone, in a statement Thursday, said he supports efforts in Albany to update the state law. “If this is not resolved in a timely fashion, we will work to address it on a local level,” he said.
Kennedy has requested that Bellone expedite the bill by issuing a “certificate of necessity” so it can be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting. Without that, the bill would not be heard until July at the earliest.
Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said the administration was reviewing the proposal.
Charles Gandolfo, owner of Dynasty Limo in Babylon, said Uber and Lyft should operate under the same regulations as traditional taxis and limousines. Drug testing, for example, will be up to the companies, rather than regulated by the towns.
“This is about fairness,” he said.
The Suffolk effort to opt out faces an uncertain future. Republicans hold just six of 18 seats in the legislature, although a bill to impose a six-month moratorium on ride-hailing services has been introduced by two Democrats, Legis. Bridget Fleming of Noyac and Legis. William Spencer of Centerport.
Spencer said his concerns include the sex-offender loophole, but he is also concerned that the state will keep the 4 percent fee on state rides.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has not announced whether he will opt out of the service. But the head of Nassau’s Taxi & Limousine Commission said Wednesday he had significant concerns about a state law that will soon legalize ride-hailing in the county and across New York, but stopped short of saying whether he’ll recommend a controversial “opt out.”