Ride share companies could get stricter regulations

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Emerging Issues Committee heard a bill on Monday that would establish statewide regulations for "transportation network companies", such as Uber or Lyft. If passed, the bill would reinforce regulations such as those the Columbia City Council passed in February 2015. 

Columbia currently requires drivers to have chauffeur's licenses, background checks and safety inspections. The House bill would require drivers to be approved by the Department of Revenue, and the company or driver would need to maintain primary automobile insurance. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific, said the statewide regulations would be created to ensure safety.

"The regulations within the bill will require drivers to drive a safe vehicle," Mathews said. "It requires extensive background checks. It requires that the TNC provide riders with up-front information about who's driving their car... They'll be tracked during their ride with GPS on both the driver's phone and the rider's phone as an added measure of safety."

Brooke Anderson, the Midwest representative for Uber, said the bill would create safer streets by avoiding drunk driving situations and providing Missourians with more transportation options. An Uber driver testified at the meeting that he had proactively saved lives by offering rides to people who had been drinking.

Mathews also said the bill would prevent drivers from breaking the law for driving into another city that operates under different regulations.

"Currently, there are regulations in some municipalities in the state that would make it a violation of law for a TNC driver to start in KC and finish the day in Lee's Summit," Mathews said. "We need statewide standards for this."

Both Mathews and Anderson said the bill would also create economic opportunities in the state. Anderson, who said Uber supports the bill, said the regulations would allow people to make money with TNC programs on their own schedules. Mathews said the bill would ultimately help the state's economy.

"It provides an opportunity for people around this state," Mathews said. "I think if this bill is implemented, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people will be interested in starting a part-time or full-time business."

A representative for Lyft testified that the company doesn't currently operate within the state but would if the bill passed.

Mathews called the bill a "high-tech, free market solution," and said the regulations would level the ride-sharing market across the state.

Some taxi-cab companies in cities across the state expressed concern over the bill at the hearing. Basil Rudawsky is the president of the County Cab and Yellow Cab company in St. Louis. He said the separation of regulation for TNCs and cabs is an issue.

"It's important to us that we are equally represented," Rudawsky said. "We want the same rules and regulations and costs and licensing costs and burdens that TNCs have."

Rudawsky also expressed concern that the TNCs would have minimal regulations and penalties under this bill, while cabs would still operate under local ordinances with a higher burden.

"Under equal protection, we need to have the same ability to compete," Rudawsky said.

If the bill passes, its next stop would be the Select Committee on General Law. That committee would then decide whether to allow for debate on the House floor.