Uber bill gets initial approval in Senate, destined for trip back to House

Sen. Bob Onder speaks at the Emerging Issues Hearing on SJR 39. (Tim Curtis/The Missouri Times)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Bob Onder won a major breakthrough on legislation to establish a statewide framework for transportation network companies (TNCs). The Senate perfected Rep. Kirk Mathews’ HB 130 by a wide 30-1 margin Tuesday afternoon after weeks of work between Onder and Sen. Paul Wieland to compromise on the legislation.

“Missourians have waited a long time for ridesharing companies to come to our state,” Onder said. “So it’s really a good day for the state of Missouri all around, and I’m happy we were able to accomplish it.”

The bill had stalled due to concerns from Wieland regarding some insurance provisions in the bill he saw as problematic. He and Onder however worked together on the bill to ensure TNC drivers would sign the company they drive for as a lost payee on their personal driver’s insurance. If the driver’s policy lapses, the TNC will have to suspend the driver.

Another major change was making punishments for poor driving behavior better match the amount of time a driver would not be allowed to drive for the company.

Compromise reached between Onder and Wieland on Uber bill

Wieland was happy with the substitute.

“From the drafts I’ve seen, my concerns will be addressed. We’re pretty much on the same page now,” Wieland said.

Onder said another major difference in passing this year’s bill from last year’s failed attempt at ridesharing legislation, also carried by both Mathews and Onder, was that opposition had faded away after some long negotiations which saw TNCs agree to a certain degree of regulation in Missouri’s two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City.

The large margin of the perfection roll call in the Senate matched the large margin in the House, where it passed 140-16. Mathews said he was confident he could maintain that vote count, or at least retain more than enough votes to pass when the legislation comes back to the House.

“From what I know of the Senate changes I don’t anticipate any real heartburn in our chamber,” Mathews said. “We had really strong bipartisan support for the bill… I’ll explain the changes to the chamber, and we’ll get it done.”

Mathews gave a lot of credit to Onder for his work on the legislation.

“There was a lot of heavy lifting over there, a lot of different stakeholders that needed to be satisfied to get this far, and Sen. Onder did yeoman’s work on that,” Mathews said.

A spokesperson with Uber added they were happy with the legislation in its current state, and Lyft released a statement after the vote.

“This free market legislation will allow Lyft to give Missourians greater economic opportunity, combat drunk driving, and plug a gap in Missouri’s transportation system,” Scott Coriell, a spokesperson for Lyft, said. :We thank the Senate, including sponsor Sen. Bob Onder, for making this a true priority in 2017. We look forward to working with the Missouri House and Gov. Greitens to make ridesharing a reality across Missouri.”

Speaker Todd Richardson also said he believed the bill, which has already gone back to the House will make its way quickly onto the calendar after it goes through fiscal review, likely seeing final passage next week.

“Obviously, it’s been a priority for members in both chambers so we’ll want to knock that one out,” Richardson said Wednesday evening. “It’s a big credit to the House bill sponsor, Rep. Kurt Mathews, and to Sen. Onder. They did great work, and members on both sides of the aisle in both chambers worked hard to get this thing to the point where it is.

“It will be exciting and fulfilling to get it across the finish line and on the governor’s desk.”

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