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Uber, Hassan Support State Regulations on Ride-Sharing in N.H.

In Manchester Tuesday, executives for the ride-sharing company Uber urged lawmakers to pass a measure that would create statewide regulations for the company's drivers.

The push comes in response to differences across New Hampshire cities in how drivers are regulated. Portsmouth requires Uber drivers to have insurance and undergo city-approved background checks. 

And in Manchester a proposal would require city licensing and random drug and alcohol screenings. 

David Plouffe, a national strategist for Uber, said these city-by-city regulations prevent Uber drivers from doing their jobs. 

“What’s interesting about New Hampshire is because you have so many rides going from city to city, which is another reason why we need a statewide framework, you can’t regulate this separately in Manchester, Concord, Portsmouth and Nashua," Plouffe said.

A bill working its way through the State House would require a background check, insurance coverage and a $500 annual permit for every Uber driver in New Hampshire, which would be paid for by the company. Roughly half of all states have passed similar measures.

Plouffe also refuted any claims that the deadly shooting spree in Michiganover the weekend was evidence that Uber drivers are not thoroughly vetted. Plouffe said that every driver undergoes a criminal background check, credit history and driving record before approved.

"(The suspect) was a highly rated driver and passed a background check, so unfortunately, like so many of these instances, we see around the country in terms of this heinous gun violence, it's a deranged individual and you cannot predict future behavior like that," Plouffe said, adding that Uber will not be changing its policies in light of the incident.

Uber would not disclose how many applicants in New Hampshire were rejected, but said in Boston roughly 10 percent of applicants end up driving. Last month more than 500 Uber drivers were on the roads in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Durham. 

Many of the Uber drivers who attended Tuesday's event applauded the company's vetting system, adding that due to its technology, riding in an Uber car can be safer than taking a taxi.

"When an Uber shows up you know who the Uber driver is, you have his photograph, you know the car, the license, so you know exactly who you are getting in with," said Jim O'Connell, who's been an Uber driver in Manchester since May and says he feels comfortable having his college daughter use it.

At the event Gov. Maggie Hassan, who also supports the statewide regulations, told the crowd that keeping companies like Uber in the Granite State will boost the state’s economy.

"As we work to attract and retain more of the young workers who are essential to economic growth in the 21st century we must engage in the emerging technologies and services that younger generations increasingly embrace," Hassan said.

But besides attracting young people to the state, Hassan also stressed that Uber allows residents an opportunity to earn some extra money on the side.

Mary Wilkes, a retiree from Salem, says working for Uber allows her the extra cash to visit her kids and grandkids in Michigan. 

The bill is currently being reviewed in the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Affairs, after that it will head to the full House.

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