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Representative Peter DeFazio speaks at a town hall meeting on Jan. 26, 2019 about the effects of the government shutdown. (Marissa Willke/Emerald)

Concerns over the background check process for drivers working for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lft recently caused Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio to take a closer look at the rideshare companies.

Uber had a rough start in Eugene in 2015; The ride-hailing company suspended operations in April 2015, less than a year after it started, when the city of Eugene filed a lawsuit to discontinue its operation in the area until it could adhere to local safety regulations and secure a vehicle-for-hire license. Uber agreed to halt operations in the city in order to settle the lawsuit.  

Uber officials complained at the time that Eugene was more rigid in terms of meeting in the middle about safety regulations than other Oregon cities such as Portland. In April 2017, Eugene amended its transportation code and in September 2018, the ride-hailing services returned to the city. 

Meanwhile, recent headlines such as Uber, Lyft driver checks miss convicted murderer, sex offender and Teen Uber passenger says she was accidentally shot by driver have raised alarm from DeFazio. 

DeFazio asked Uber and Lyft CEOs Dara Khosrowshahi and Logan Green to reconsider sending representatives from their companies to testify at a congressional hearing on Oct. 16, which they had previously declined to do, according to a press release issued by DeFazio on Oct. 15. He wrote in a letter to Khosrowshahi on Oct. 14 that he intends to “pursue legislative solutions to address numerous issues plaguing the ride hailing industry, many of which will be raised at this hearing.” 

Representatives for the companies did not testify at the hearing. During the hearing, DeFazio they were “led on” by both companies saying they would testify and then refusing to last minute. 

The hearing addressed issues pertinent to ride hailing companies’ and the industry created in their wake, such as “sexual predation by drivers, the need for background checks and deactivation of dangerous drivers, and inadequate wages,” according DeFazio’s letter. 

During the hearing, DeFazio said, the companies “days of operating with little public policy and regulatory oversight and the transportation space are coming to an end.”