Proposed bill eliminates regulation on taxi driver background checks

Area taxi services may no longer need to perform background checks on new drivers.

Legislation proposed in Wisconsin would ban local governments from regulating taxi companies.

Bee Cab and Limo owner Sue Redenbaugh said regulation makes sure not just anyone can drive a cab.

“I think there has to be some kind of background check,” Redenbaugh said.

Redenbaugh said customers want to know they are safe when using cab services.

“I don’t think they want just anybody driving costumers around,” Redenbaugh said.

The proposal is supported by some taxi companies who want to compete with ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.

Neither service is required to have the same licensing and insurance agreements as traditional cabs, and as a result they can charge lower fares.

However, local law enforcement says background checks and licensing insures safety.

“There is a certain level of comfort in knowing that the individual that’s driving your cab (has passed a background check),” said Capt. Jason Melby, of the La Crosse Police Department. “You can feel comfortable and know they are going to just drive you to your location in an efficient manner and drop you off.”

Melby said without regulation background checks would be a choice for private taxi businesses.

“You are taking away one of those safeguards that does protect people who use those services,” Melby said.

Redenbaugh said her company will conduct background checks and drug tests regardless.

“If something happens to a costumer or a child or any other person it could be an issue,” Redenbaugh said.

She said there are certain people with criminal records who shouldn’t be driving a cab.

“If they have a background of assault or anything to do with a minor or anything like that,” Redenbaugh said. “Those are reasons why they shouldn’t be taking the public around.”