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Missouri House endorses statewide rules for Uber, Lyft

Patrick McInerney, a lawyer who has been negotiating with Kansas City on behalf of Lyft, said that although the proposal is not perfect, “it’s certainly closer to what we have in mind. … It’s moving in the right direction.”
Patrick McInerney, a lawyer who has been negotiating with Kansas City on behalf of Lyft, said that although the proposal is not perfect, “it’s certainly closer to what we have in mind. … It’s moving in the right direction.” MCT

The Missouri House gave its initial approval Wednesday night to a bill that would limit the ability of cities to regulate ride-hailing companies by creating statewide standards.

The vote comes just weeks after Kansas City approved new rules applying to both traditional taxis and new technology companies such as Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to link passengers with drivers using their own vehicles.

The legislation still has to be approved once more in the House before it would go to the Senate. It sets policies regarding background checks for drivers and guidelines for insurance. It also mandates companies — but not drivers — receive a permit from the local government.

Any regulations that go beyond the state standards would be prohibited under the bill.

Proponents say statewide standards will allow a new technology company to operate and expand throughout Missouri.

Critics say the bill undercuts local government’s ability to protect its citizens. By only mandating a company receive a permit, they say, cities will have few options if a dangerous driver is discovered.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ office said last week that negotiations with Uber have been productive, and he was hopeful the company would not follow through on its threat to abandon the city because they disapproved of the local regulations.

The new city law requires adequate insurance and comprehensive background check information from both taxis and ride-booking services. It charges individual drivers $250, but if a parent company such as Uber will pay an annual fee of $40,000, that would drop the driver’s vehicle permit cost to $100.

Kansas City Democrats led opposition to the statewide standardsWednesday night.

“The central question is, will you feel comfortable letting your daughter or son get into a rideshare vehicle knowing the city can’t verify the background check on the driver?” said Rep. Kevin McManus, a Kansas City Democrat.

A bill creating statewide ride-booking standards in the Senate has cleared committee but has not been taken up for debate by the full chamber.

The legislative session ends May 15.

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