Graham Renz

My colleague Michael McShane recently wrote a legislative “half-time report” on education reform in Missouri. While some bills haven’t moved as quickly or as far as he would like, education reform appears to be in much better shape than transportation reform. SB 185, a promising bill that would streamline regulations for transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, has hit a snag. After moving uncontroversially through a senate committee, the bill has been filibustered.

SB 185 would create a statewide regulatory framework for TNCs, making it possible for them to operate across different jurisdictions that may have conflicting local regulations (or no TNC regulations at all). The law embodies free-market principles and could create jobs, improve mobility, and increase personal freedom. Show-Me Institute analysts, myself included, have testified in favor of SB 185 and similar legislation (e.g. HB 130) for years. So why is the bill hung up?

The Missouri Times reports that a senator:

opposes the legislation because he fears it will lead to fewer people, namely those who sign up to become drivers for TNCs like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar, to forgo paying for insurance. If a person signs up to become a driver, he says, and a TNC promises to cover his or her insurance when they’re driving for the company, drivers could forget their insurance only applies when they are on the clock when it comes time to renew their personal insurance.

In short, the bill seems to have been held up over concerns that TNC drivers, who use their own personal automobiles while on the clock, will simply forget they still need to purchase an individual auto policy.

If this concern is indeed motivating the filibuster, it seems misguided for two reasons. First, most TNC drivers work part time, and therefore likely own automobiles for personal use (57% of Uber drivers work less than 15 hours/week, and 86% work less than 35 hours/week.) Since these drivers own cars primarily to use themselves, it seems unlikely they’ll just forget to buy insurance once they start driving a few hours a day for a TNC. Second, to register your vehicle in Missouri, you need proof of insurance! It’s hard to understand why Missourians would forget to purchase (state-mandated) insurance just because they receive commercial coverage when driving for a TNC. It’s even harder to see how that fear would outweigh the potential benefits of sensible TNC regulations.

Proponents of SB 185 are still optimistic, but the future of free-market transportation reform is unclear. I remain hopeful that the policies embodied by SB 185 will eventually enable drivers to earn a living, help riders save money, and make it easier for all Missourians to get around. 

About the Author

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Graham Renz

Graham Renz is a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute.