A bipartisan bill to regulate Transportation Network Companies – or TNC’s – is headed to Missouri Governor Eric Greitens desk.
Taxi agencies in St. Louis and Kansas City were persuaded to accept the legislation, which they’d opposed for several years.
The measure sets guidelines and standards for ride sharing organizations such as Uber and Lyft, which hire independent contractors to supply their service.
Republican Bob Onder of Lake Saint Louis, who carried the bill in the Senate, says it was important to ensure TNC’s could operate seamlessly across counties and municipalities.
“In my own county, we had executives from MasterCard, from Citigroup, from Nike who could get from the airport to St. Charles County using a ride sharing service, but couldn’t get back home” said Onder. “Also in my own county, in southern St. Charles County, we have a winery district along Highway 94. And taxis wouldn’t come down to the winery district because it was too far away.”
Onder thinks it was important for the legislation to clearly distinguish TNC’s from Taxi services. “It would be clear that those local regulatory authorities wouldn’t be treating ride sharing companies as if they were taxis. Taxis and TNC’s are to some extent apples and oranges. And really, we needed to clear that regulatory hurdle to allow TNC’s to operate as TNC’s and be allowed to operate freely.”
Among other things, the bill establishes a permitting process for TNC’s, and requires transparency of time and distance rates being charged to riders.
Onder said lawmakers were able to work with Kansas City and the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxi Commission to clear the last couple of hurdles to TNC’s operating across the state.
Under the measure, Kansas City will be authorized to audit a TNC up to two times per year, in order ensure they’re complying with its requirements.
The TNC’s can be charged up to $5,000 for the costs of the audit. If any violations are discovered, Kansas City can fine the TNC up to $500 per violation. According to the bill’s House sponsor, Republican Kirk Mathews of Pacific, money generated from audit violations will go to the state’s Department of Revenue.
The legislation was bipartisan, with Democratic cosponsors in both the House and Senate. Still, a handful of lawmakers opposed the legislation. During floor debate in the House, Democrat Judy Morgan of Kansas City told Mathews that the Revenue Department would strip out too much regulation.
“I think that they did say that they thought they were going to work with you to make the regulations more minimal, and that’s probably where you and I have a disagreement, because I think I want a little bit more regulatory function there.”
Those against the measure also contend expenses to perform audits of TNC’s could drain money from the state’s general revenue fund.
In addition, there’s concern that all TNC, taxi and food service delivery drivers would will be exempt from having to obtain a commercial license, which could diminish funding for the Transportation Department.
The measure ultimately passed the Senate 31-1, and was approved in the House by a 144-7 margin. Onder, the Senate sponsor, argues TNC’s have a positive impact on public safety.
“One study showed a 51% reduction in DWI arrests when the TNC companies fully operated in given markets.”
With Governor Greitens signature, the measure will make Missouri the 40th state with a ride sharing law. Onder said “The time has come for Missouri to enter the 21st Century and allow this innovative industry to thrive across our state…I fully expect Governor Greitens to sign it soon. This is a great day for Missouri. “