‘Sami’s Law’ passes the House

Chris Smith Sami's law

Congressman Chris Smith Meets with Marci and Seymour Josephson, the parents of Samantha “Sami” Josephson in Washington, DC. Submitted photo.

Bipartisan legislation named in honor of Samantha “Sami” Josephson—a senior at the University of South Carolina who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in 2019 by a predator pretending to be her Uber driver—was passed today in the House of Representatives.

Sami’s Law—HR 4686—passed in a unanimous voice vote. 

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) the bill’s prime sponsor, said that among its provisions, Sami’s Law will “require ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy a verifiable electronic access system to match drivers with passengers before the ride begins to enhance safety for the ride-hailing public. 

“I am especially grateful to the Speaker for her strong personal commitment to this cause and for bringing Sami’s Law to the floor today and who—like leader Kevin McCarthy and others—welcomed Marci and Seymour with deep respect, kindness and total empathy for their loss.

Chief cosponsor Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) said, “Our Smith/Suozzi bill works to provide consumers with a level of safety before entering a vehicle… As Members of Congress, it is our duty to do all we can do protect our constituents. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this commonsense, bipartisan legislation in short order.”

Sami’s parents, Marci and Seymour said “It’s bittersweet. It’s been emotional. We’d much rather have Samantha sitting with us here on the couch, but to create a law so nobody else gets hurt is a good thing. It’s a huge step to get it through the House. Now we need to get the Senate to act on it hopefully soon.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-CA) said “After the heartbreaking murder of their daughter Samantha, Seymour and Marci Josephson turned their agony into courageous action to promote rideshare safety and education and to prevent future tragedies.  Passing Sami’s Law is a fitting tribute to her memory, and it is critical to ensuring that rideshare companies have protections in place for the safety and well-being of all their passengers.  I applaud the relentless advocacy of Congressman Chris Smith, along with Congressman Tom Suozzi, for crafting this important bill and ensuring its strong, bipartisan support on the House Floor.”

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): said: “Sami should be with us today. She should be alongside her loving parents Seymour and Marci, and she should have graduated from the University of South Carolina and gone on to attend law school like she had been planning. But her life was cut short because of the horrific actions of a predator. While we cannot bring Sami back, here is the promise we make to her family and her loved ones: this Congress will take action to not only memorialize her life, but we will also implement changes needed to keep innocent people safer when they use ride share apps in the future. The passage of Sami’s Law will establish additional layers of security, including requiring digital methods to establish driver/rider identities before the ride starts, so that we can prevent these types of crimes from happening. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Chris Smith, who has been committed to making sure Sami’s Law becomes a reality, and to the efforts of the ridesharing companies for their willingness to work together on this important initiative. Today Sami’s Law is on its way to the Senate, one step closer to being signed into law.”

Smith said “given the pain due to the unimageable loss of their daughter—Seymour and Marci have been heroic, tenacious and extraordinarily persuasive.  They have been a critically important part of the often-intense negotiations with multiple stakeholders including Uber and Lyft.’

Both Uber and Lyft praised passage of Sami’s Law.

Danielle Burr, Head of Uber Federal Affairs: “The tragic death of Samantha Josephson left the rideshare community heartbroken and devastated.  Today’s passage of ‘Sami’s Law’ is another step in the ongoing work to help improve safety on rideshare by leveraging education and technology. We’re grateful for the leadership of Congressman Chris Smith, the support and collaboration of the Josephson Family and the commitment of congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle to pass ‘Sami’s Law.’

In a statement Lyft said”The Josephson family and Congressman Smith have worked tirelessly to champion Sami’s Law. Their determination has led to today’s passage in the US House of Representatives. We have and will continue to prioritize safety within the Lyft community.”

The National Federation of the Blind, which was instrumental in writing the provision in the bill to ensure that there is a way for a passenger to use a non-visual arrangement to verify the authenticity of the TNC driver, also strongly supports the bill.

“We thank and commend Representative Smith for working closely with us in crafting this legislation, which will provide a fully nonvisual method for blind and deafblind passengers to identify and verify rideshare trips.  We urge the Senate to swiftly follow the House in passing Sami’s Law,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind:  

Sami’s Law not only sets safety requirements for today’s technology and a process for successor technology performance standards, it also:

  • establishes a 15-member advisory council that reports to the Secretary of Transportation—SAMI’s Council—comprised of federal agency and public stakeholders to advance safety standards in the rideshare industry;
  • makes it unlawful to sell, or offer for sale, ride-share signage making it more difficult for imposters like Sami’s murderer to pose as a driver;
  • requires a GAO report on the incidence of assault and abuse of both passengers and drivers;
  • requires that the GAO also examine the nature and specifics of “background” checks conducted by companies and the varying standards set by States regarding background checks.

Please see the below for complete statements of those identified above.

“Both Marci and I and Sydney are extremely happy and proud to work with Chris Smith, Speak Pelosi and Leader McCarthy, Chairman DeFazio, Graves and Suozzi,” said Seymour Josephson, speaking for his wife and other daughter, Sydney. “We really appreciate the teamwork, having Chris Smith leading the charge and bringing in Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy and Rep. DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves and others. It’s been a whirlwind of ups and downs. It’s bittersweet. It’s been emotional. We’d much rather have Samantha sitting with us here on the couch, but to create a law so nobody else gets hurt is a good thing. It’s a huge step to get it through the House. Now we need to get the Senate to act on it hopefully soon.”

About The Author

Irving Lawrence Duckwald III is a freelance writer and blogger based in Central New Jersey. He has a penchant for fried chicken, fast cars, and fancy suits. With a knack for "setting the record straight", he can argue till the cows come home why it's Pork Roll and not Taylor Ham.