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Uber puts pressure on Senate as session end draws near


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Uber is pushing senators to support legislation that would regulate the ride-sharing service statewide, as the Senate needs to give approval to the bill with two days of session remaining.

The company has specifically highlighted SB 640, a transportation bill that the Uber legislation was amended to last week. That legislation is currently in conference.

“The legislation before them would create a permanent home for ridesharing in Missouri while also leading to new growth and investments, including Uber’s commitment to launch four new markets in Missouri by end of 2016,” the company said in a statement. Those four new markets would include Springfield, Jefferson City, St. Joseph and St. Charles.

The company also offered endorsements from some local groups, including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, United Inner City Services and the Ferguson 1000.

“Ridesharing is a win/win for the community, empowering thousands of people to earn money to support their families,” said Carlos Gomez, president of the Hispanic chamber. “We urge the legislature to get the job done on this legislation that will allow Uber to put more people to work here in Kansas City.”

Supporters of the bill have called it a jobs bill, bringing 10,000 new jobs to the state.

But opponents are worried about safety and have pushed for fingerprint background checks for all drivers. And some Kansas City legislators are upset that Uber is looking for statewide regulations more favorable than the deal struck with the city last year.

Uber’s supporters amended the bill last week to offer compromise language that would allow the Department of Revenue to ask Uber to implement fingerprint background checks in three years. However, some, like Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City, have wondered whether Uber would follow through on that deal after he says they tore up the deal with Kansas City.

“I’m having a hard time seeing that they’re going to stick to a deal that’s three years in the future that’s a maybe, when they couldn’t stick to a deal that was 8 months in the future with a definite,” LaFaver said on the floor last week when the bill was debated.

Fingerprint background checks have been a point of contention for Uber and other ride-sharing companies across the country. Uber and Lyft shut down service in Austin on Monday after the people of the city voted to mandate them.

The legislation has been passed out of the House three times. First on the original bill, HB 2330 and then as an amendment on SB 640 and SB 861. HB 2330 has gone through a long hearing process in the Senate and is likely dead as it hasn’t passed its committee. SB 640, probably the legislation’s best hope, currently sits in conference committee.