It’s time to make way for a sharing economy

It is rare that New York State moves to pass legislation that would have an immediate and positive impact on the Hudson Valley economy. It is even rarer that the bill would not cost taxpayers a penny and has bipartisan support in both houses. Fortunately, such a piece of legislation (A.6090/S.4280) exists and is supported by a number of organizations, including The Business Council of New York State. This particular piece of legislation, which would help regulate the growing “sharing economy,” specifically as it pertains to automobiles and insurance companies, should be passed before the end of the year.

The “sharing economy” is perhaps best exemplified by companies like Lyft and Uber, but there are a whole host of businesses just waiting for New York State to give them the regulatory tools necessary to open up shop. Passing this legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Cahill, would give New Yorkers the services they want while at the same time giving insurance companies the assurances they need.

Anyone who has lived and traveled in cities like Poughkeepsie, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo knows that the current transit options are woefully inadequate. The lack of consistently reliable public transportation stifles economic development and leaves visitors with a negative impression of our communities and our state.

Ride sharing and other “collaborative consumption” innovations have several benefits to consumers and the economy as a whole. The utilization of underused assets allows ride-sharers to spend less money and moves more people with fewer vehicles. Ride-sharing saves resources, energy and physical space.

The growth of the “sharing economy” is indisputable. A recent report in Forbes Magazine estimated that the revenue flowing through the “sharing economy” surpassed $3.5 billion, with growth expectations that exceeded 25 percent. New York should be at the forefront in encouraging new economic models in a safe and responsible manner. By requiring that group policy insurance be in place for vehicles taking part in ride sharing, the Cahill bill provides a balanced approach to the necessary protections for consumers, insurers and the public at large.

New York has a history of leading the nation when it comes to adopting legislative policies that affect real change in the way we all live and work. Unfortunately, when it comes to the so-called “new economy”, New York’s policies are falling woefully behind. It is time for the Empire State to show true leadership and allow its citizens to take advantage of the benefits technology is affording us all.

Heather C. Briccetti Esq.
President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

*a version of this OpEd ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal on 6/17/15