Government & Politics

Uber is back in Kansas after Gov. Sam Brownback signs bill into law

The Associated Press

Uber has officially returned to Kansas, and Gov. Sam Brownback was one of its first passengers upon signing a bill into law designed to bring the ride-hailing service back to the Sunflower State.

Brownback hopped into a black sedan — with Nebraska plates — to celebrate the company’s return to Kansas on Friday afternoon. The sedan pulled away without Brownback taking any questions from reporters about the bill or any other matters.

“I don’t even know where he’s going,” said Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman. “He’s the governor.”

Sen. Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat and one of the lawmakers who attended the signing ceremony, joked that the governor has the same car booked for next week too, referencing the difficult budget debates the state has ahead.

Brownback’s signing of the bill puts an end to a controversy that had besieged the Legislature in recent weeks.

The company suspended service in the state earlier this month after lawmakers overrode Brownback’s veto of a previous bill that established insurance and safety regulations for ride-hailing companies. Uber’s departure spurred a backlash against the Legislature on social media as the company’s customers pilloried lawmakers with criticism.

The new bill’s regulations are less stringent and have Uber’s support as a compromise.

The law will require Uber to inform drivers that they need to purchase comprehensive and collision insurance if their car is under a lien. Drivers who fail to do so could risk losing their automobile.

It would also bar Uber from hiring drivers who have been convicted of various crimes, including identity theft, driving under the influence and sexual assault.

The previous bill would have required drivers to undergo background checks conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, a provision to which Uber strongly objected. Uber will still be able to conduct its own background checks under the new legislation, but if it fails to enforce the requirements it could face a civil suit from the state’s attorney general.