Uber, Lyft say their rides will be safer if Ohio keeps two license plate requirement


Andrew J. Tobias - Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)



COLUMBUS, Ohio — Uber and Lyft are getting involved in the political fight over Ohio’s license plate requirements.

The ride-share giants have written Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof to throw their support behind Senate Bill 179, which would keep in place a requirement that vehicles registered in Ohio have two license plates.

Otherwise, the front-license plate requirement is scheduled to go away on July 1, 2020, thanks to a provision in the state transportation budget bill signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in March.

Uber and Lyft officials say the front license plate makes it easier for passengers to identify the car that’s supposed to pick them up.

“We believe government-issued license plates are the most secure and effective means for ride identification, giving Lyft passengers the peace of mind that they are entering the correct vehicle each time,” Matt Patton, Lyft Public Policy Manager, Ohio, wrote in a letter to Obhof.

The ride-share companies had stayed out of the debate earlier this year that saw the front-license plate requirement axed. Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder pushed for the change, backed by drivers and auto dealers who said the second license plate hurts vehicles’ resale value. All the states bordering Ohio require only a back plate.

Despite expressing misgivings, DeWine opted not to veto the license-plate change, seemingly settling a long-running debate in the Ohio Statehouse.

The most vocal supporters of keeping the front license plate have been law enforcement groups, who have cited cases of police officers using the plates to identify people suspected of murder and other serious crimes.

But front-license plate backers hope adding other groups to their coalition will show the support goes beyond law enforcement. OAPSE - AFSCME, a union that represents Ohio bus drivers, also have thrown their support behind the bill.

SB179 has yet to receive a hearing since it was introduced in July. Sen. Jay Hottinger, a Newark Republican who’s sponsoring the bill, said he recently requested a hearing and hopes to have one soon.

But, he said saving the front license plate is an uphill political battle, in part due to how strongly House leadership feels about getting rid of it.

“There are constituencies who think that law enforcement wants this because of revenue … But the issue comes down to, we think it’s an effective tool in fighting crime, and I think the evidence is clear, convincing and overwhelming,” Hottinger said.

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Andrew J. Tobias

Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)

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