As ride-for-hire businesses, Uber and Lyft love to proclaim they aren’t like your old-fashioned taxicab services.
Here’s Missouri Rep. Kirk Matthews, a Franklin County Republican, regurgitating the explanation spoon-fed by the companies to the public.
“It’s a different business model built on a technological platform,” he said. “They are a cyber-marketplace connecting drivers and riders.”
So ... a driver in a vehicle picks up passengers and transports them to their destination.
Sounds exactly like what a taxicab company does.
And that’s largely why Kansas City and other governments have decided in the last few years to hold Uber, Lyft and taxicab firms to strict regulations when it comes to background checks for drivers and the safety of their vehicles.
Matthews, however, wants to kill the ability of cities to protect the public.
He’s sponsoring a bill, which made it through a committee this week, that would require Uber and Lyft to only meet looser state requirements. Local officials could not set tougher rules than the minimal ones established in Jefferson City.
It’s all part of a sneak attack that the ride-for-hire companies are pushing in Jefferson City. It comes less than a year after Kansas City Mayor Sly James, the City Council and the businesses bitterly fought over, but then eventually agreed on some sensible regulations.
The Kansas City pact came in the midst of Uber’s petulant engagement in other high-profile battles in Kansas and elsewhere over regulations.
The new Missouri bill should be an obvious target to shoot down for General Assembly members who whine all the time about federal rules being imposed on state government.
Yet state lawmakers so far are playing deaf to the pleas of city officials, listening instead to the 11 Uber-hired lobbyists.
Making matters worse, the new state legislation also would relieve taxi companies from stricter local regulations.
And in a startling and unfair ploy, drivers for all these businesses would be excused from having to pay the earnings tax in Kansas City or St. Louis. Just for grins, it appears, the General Assembly is taking away a city’s right to impose fair taxes on everyone.
Get beyond the hype spread by Uber and Lyft and there’s no compelling reason to let them off the hook when it comes to establishing tough public safety rules. Locally elected officials deserve that power. The state bill should be killed.