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Seattle eases limit on ridesharing companies, but keeps strict insurance requirements in place

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By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Seattle lawmakers eased limits on ridesharing companies on Monday, handing a victory to a nascent industry that has emerged in scores of cities to compete with traditional taxis.

Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to remove restrictions imposed earlier this year on the numbers of cars used by UberX, Lyft and other companies, which let customers hail rides through smartphone apps from drivers using their own vehicles.

But it kept in place tougher insurance requirements on the rideshare companies, brought in in March, addressing one of the main criticisms of the new operators.

Many traditional taxi companies and a number of city administrations have balked at the rise of the rideshare industry, protesting against what they see as a lack of regulation covering licensing, safety and insurance coverage.

Austin, Texas, began threatening to impound ridesharing cars last year, prompting another service, Sidecar, to leave town.

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Seattle’s lawmakers raised similar objections in March, limiting each of the ridesharing companies to 150 drivers on the road at any one time.

But as a public campaign built against the limits in a city known for its embrace of innovation, Mayor Ed Murray assembled taxi owners, dispatchers, for-hire owners, and ridesharing firms for weeks of meetings aimed at balancing competing interests.

Monday’s vote also allowed 200 more licenses for traditional taxi companies over four years.

“Today’s vote to authorize ridesharing recognizes that regulations can be modernized to allow new industries to thrive while maintaining the highest level of public safety,” said Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson.

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The one council member to oppose the new measures, Mike O’Brien, said the public had not been given a proper chance to vet the bill.

Supporters say ridesharing companies are often cheaper than their traditional competitors.

But UberX has faced criticism in recent months for its practice of surge pricing, in which it increases the cost of a car ride – sometimes several times over – at times when demand is highest, such as during a snowstorm. UberX Chief Executive Travis Kalanick has defended the practice as an example of market-driven efficiency.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Federal Reserve chair defiant in face of Trump threats: ‘The law is clear — I have a four-year term’

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sounded a defiant note on Wednesday as he announced that there would be no further cuts to interest rates for the time being.

Even though President Donald Trump has been publicly calling for a rate cut to spur additional economic growth ahead of his reelection campaign, Powell kept interest rates at their current level and signaled that he did not foresee any interest rate cuts for the rest of the year.

Powell was asked by a reporter if he was concerned about being "demoted" by Trump in the wake of this announcement, the Federal Reserve Chairman said he wasn't worried.

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John Dean explains the big mistake Hope Hicks made by stonewalling Congress

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Former White House counsel John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal, said Wednesday on CNN that there was a serious flaw in the attempt to prevent longtime Trump confidant Hope Hicks from testifying to Congress.

White House lawyers have asserted that Hicks has absolute immunity and is not legally required to testify about her time as Trump's director of communications. Hicks testified Wednesday during a closed-door hearing before the House Judiciary Committee — where she reportedly refused to answer questions about her White House job.

"Privilege is not being asserted here. Instead, the White House says that Hicks has absolute immunity regarding the time that she spent at 1600 Pennsylvania. Does absolute immunity even exist? And if so, can you explain to me the difference between the two?" CNN host Brooke Baldwin asked Dean.

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GOP gangs up on AOC: Top Republican demands Ocasio-Cortez apologize to the entire world – she refuses

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The Republican machine is in fifth gear right now, speeding to attack one of their top Democratic targets: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

At issue, a video the New York Democrat recorded in which she calls the migrant detention camps on the U.S. Southern border "concentration camps."

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