Uber says it will end operations in Kansas effectively immediately in the wake of the Kansas Legislature’s decision to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill imposing stricter regulations on Uber and other ride-hailing services.
“Uber has ceased operations throughout the state,” said Uber spokeswoman Lauren Altmin in a statement. “We’re saddened by the loss of hundreds of jobs, safe rides and transportation choice for consumers in Kansas.”
Altmin sent the statement after the Kansas Senate voted 34-5 to override Brownback’s veto but before the House had voted. About 10 minutes later, the House voted 96-25.
The override vote is a major setback for Brownback, who vetoed the bill last month, citing concerns about overregulating an emerging industry. Within days of Brownback’s veto, the company announced it was expanding into four new markets in Kansas.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Uber and similar services use smartphone apps to link people wanting a ride to private drivers who are willing to drive them. The passengers pay a fee to the ride-hailing service, which then pays the drivers.
The new law will mandate that companies certify that drivers have comprehensive and collision insurance on their cars. In addition, it will require drivers to undergo a Kansas Bureau of Investigation background check.
Uber contends that the insurance is unnecessary and that it does its own background checks on drivers.
Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican and one of the bill’s primary backers, said the issue is not just about Uber.
“I think the governor’s veto was about Uber. For us it’s not,” Schwab said. “For us it’s the next player that comes in to do transportation and doesn’t do a background check and then all of a sudden we’ve got a couple of 21-year-old girls that were hoping to get a safe ride home and that just went missing.
“There (are) no protections. And we’re not asking for much. I mean, in Colorado next to us they go through their bureau of investigation, and Uber didn’t leave there.”
Schwab also said there’s a gap in insurance.
“This is a new marketplace and we have to make sure just like everybody else on the road they have protections,” he said.
But some lawmakers voiced confidence that the national company would return and said they were willing to work on a compromise.
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, called Uber’s announcement “pure political theater.”
“The Legislature has not taken any action preventing them from operating,” she said in an email. “They have a consistent pattern of irrational behavior, and this is just the latest example.”
Lyft, a competitor to Uber, recently said it was pulling out of the Kansas City market over objections to new restrictions put in place by the Kansas City Council. But Uber, which helped negotiate the latest city ordinance, has said it plans to stay in the market.