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Majors actors (AirBnB, Uber) from the « share economy » are under serious law scrutiny

Amid controversy surrounding Uber’s foray into Portsmouth, and cease-and desist orders given to residents renting through online sites like Airbnb, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark is proposing a state-level study committee to examine those and other peer-to-peer economy businesses.

Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, has authored a House bill that would establish a committee « to study the adequacy and safety of services to the public » through the so-called sharing economies. According to a draft of her bill, the committee would include two senators and three state representatives, who would study the « non-regulated, new-economy businesses. »

The committee would also study whether appropriate safeguards are provided through the services and « whether regulations and oversight measures should be established by the state. » The draft bill also suggests the committee examine how other states are responding to online sharing economies and publish a final report by Nov. 1, 2016 to the Senate president, speaker of the House, Senate clerk, House clerk, Gov. Maggie Hassan and the state library.

« As each municipality is wrestling with the best and fairest way to regulate this new sharing economy, whether it is Uber, Airbnb or other new web-based ventures, it may be important for New Hampshire to ensure some consistency in regulating theses businesses municipality-to-municipality, » Fuller Clark said. « That is why I am introducing legislation for a study committee to further examine the fairest and most effective way to put in place new regulations that will ensure a consistent level playing field for all. »

In November, the city began issuing cease-and-desist notices to some property owners stating that, because of neighbor complaints, they’re barred from further renting space in their homes, on a short-term basis, through online sites including Airbnb.com. City Attorney Robert Sullivan has said the cease-and-desist orders are being sent on a case-by-case basis and based on the legal theory that the short-term rentals are inconsistent with zoning regulations for residential neighborhoods.

If the cease-and desist orders are ignored, the notices state, the city will take the property owners to the Rockingham County Superior Court for enforcement.

Sullivan said citizen complaints about short-term rentals have included reports about wedding parties, traffic, parking, alcohol and noise. Local chef Michele Duval, said she, her South End guests and neighbors have no complaints about her short-term rentals through airbnb.com.

« It’s a great solution to help with expenses, » said Duval, who added that she’s diligent about paying the 9 percent state rooms and meals tax for every rental.

In response to Uber ride-sharing drivers working in the city, the Taxi Commission last month recommended the elimination of taxi medallions, regulation of taxi fares, city taxi inspections and the Taxi Commission itself. The commission has since sent a memo to the City Council, which then instructed Sullivan to rewrite the city’s taxi ordinance to reflect the following changes:

• Recognize so-called ride-sharing services offered by platforms including Uber.

• Replace the current taxi medallion system with a registration process that would require all drivers to register with the city clerk’s office and provide proof of commercial insurance.

• Require the Police Department to conduct criminal background checks on all registered drivers, who would be charged a fee for the background checks.

• Require all drivers-for-hire to sign and adhere to a code of conduct.

In the meantime, the city attorney said, a « grace period » is being extended to allow Uber drivers to continue to operate in Portsmouth without adhering to the same regulations taxi drivers are required to follow. Portsmouth attorney Joe Plaia is representing Great Bay Taxi, which objects to the grace period, arguing that the state and federal constitutional rights of regulated taxi drivers are being violated while public safety is put at risk.

Au milieu de la controverse entourant l’arrivée de Uber à Portsmouth, et des attaques récentes autour d’AirBnB dans l’Etat, le sénateur Martha Fuller Clark a proposé la nomination d’un comité d’étude d’une loi relative à la « share économie ». Selon ce projet  de loi, le comité comprendra deux sénateurs et trois représentants de l’Etat et étudiera les entreprises acteurs de  « la nouvelle économie non encore réglementée du partage. »

Le comité devrait également étudier si des garanties appropriées sont fournis par ces entreprises ou si des règlements et des mesures de contrôle doivent être établies par l’Etat. Le projet de loi suggère également que le comité examinera comment d’autres Etats appréhendent ces problématiques.  Un rapport devra être fourni le 1 novembre 2016 au président du Sénat.

Une chose est sûre, le législateur américain s’intéresse de plus en plus à ces sujets… à suivre.