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Taxi Group Demands Postponement Of Uber Hearing

A coalition of taxi industry advocates is calling for the postponement of a New Year's Eve hearing on proposed regulations for the nascent ride-for-hire industry and threatening potential legal action if the hearing isn't moved.

In a Dec. 26 letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, the head of the Massachusetts Regional Taxi Advocacy Group raised the possibility of emergency litigation, saying the timing of the hearing, set for Wednesday at 10 a.m., "violates the due process rights of our Commonwealth's cab drivers and owners, as well as our disabled citizens, women, and other groups that have been victimized by publicly-reported abuse and misconduct on the part of Uber and Lyft drivers."

The head of the group, Michael Gorman, also noted that the location of the hearing, inside the state transportation building near Boston Common, is close to First Night activities, which will draw crowds of revelers to Boston for the celebration of the countdown to a new year.

"New Year's Eve is the busiest day of the year for taxi and limousine operators," Gorman wrote. "Forcing these individuals to choose from working on this day or not working so they may attend this hearing and make their voice heard will have a profound impact on their earnings and is patently unfair."

Uber and Lyft, which are alternatives to taxis, are used by drivers in their own cars who connect with potential passengers through mobile phone applications.

Uber and Lyft have been locked in a bitter battle with the taxi industry, with cab drivers calling the services illegal.

Patrick has pushed for new regulations subjecting them to state oversight.

In his letter, Gorman added that the Patrick administration's "lack of transparency in drafting these regulations and the utterly illogical timing of the [hearing]...will be a stain on an administration that prides itself on inclusion and fair and public deliberations."

The group also accused of the Patrick administration of aiding the ride-for-hire industry by picking New Year's Eve as the day of the hearing and Patrick going "out of his way to support Uber."

"It began in August 2012 when he rescinded a cease and desist order issued by his staff at the Division of Standards, and culminates with orchestrating this hearing on New Year's Eve, disenfranchising many of those most affected by it, and one week before he leaves office," group spokesman Stephen Regan said in a statement.

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