Gov. Sam Brownback is considering vetoing a bill that would place new regulations on rideshare services such as Uber, according to a Republican lawmaker who has met with the governor on the issue.
The deadline for the governor to act on SB 117 is Monday.
Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an email that the governor’s office would not “speculate on what action the Governor may take on any bill.”
“The Governor has met with many individuals and organizations who have an interest in this bill to understand all sides of the issue,” Hawley said.
Lawmakers have enough votes to override a veto, said Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, who chairs the House Insurance Committee, which worked on the bill. Schwab has met with Brownback on the issue.
The bill passed 107-16 in the House and 35-2 in the Senate. A two-thirds majority is needed to override the governor’s veto: 84 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate.
Schwab said even if some lawmakers don’t vote to override the veto, they’ll still have more than enough votes to pass the legislation again and put it back on Brownback’s desk before the end of the session. Lawmakers return to Topeka for a veto session beginning April 29.
The bill would require drivers for rideshare services such as Uber, which operates in Wichita and the Kansas City metro area, to undergo background checks through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and to certify that they have comprehensive and collision insurance.
Uber has opposed the regulations as overly burdensome and threatened to leave the state if the bill becomes law. The company’s customers sent the Legislature enough emails to crash the state’s email server two weeks ago, and an online petition against the legislation has more than 6,500 signatures.
Lawmakers say the insurance requirement is meant to ensure that there aren’t gaps in coverage. Uber’s insurance covers a driver when he or she has a customer in the car, but there can be gaps before the driver picks up the passenger. The bill would require Uber to certify that drivers are insured but not pay for the insurance itself.
California adopted a similar requirement after an Uber driver was accused of striking and killing a six-year-old girl with his car. The Utah Legislature passed regulations that are stronger than the Kansas bill this year.
Schwab said the background check is necessary to make sure that a college student using Uber at 2 a.m. to return home from a party is safe and the insurance requirement is necessary to ensure there aren’t gaps in coverage for public safety.
“Simple decision,” Schwab said. “Are you going to bow down to a $40 billion corporation or are you going to protect the public?”
Schwab said Brownback understands the rationale behind the legislation but is contemplating vetoing it.
The insurance requirement was backed by the Kansas Bankers Association to ensure that banks wouldn’t be left uncompensated if a driver takes out a loan on a car, becomes an Uber driver and gets in accident.
The company’s petition to veto the bill calls the insurance requirement a “poison pill” because it “would require drivers who want to partner with ridesharing companies like Uber to carry insurance that is not currently required in any of the 50 states.”
“This bill is anti-competitive and ignores the free market innovation that Uber offers riders and drivers in Kansas,” the petition states. “Thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of economic impact, and safe rides for those who need them – will all be destroyed because of a few Kansas bankers. Tell Governor Brownback that he can save jobs in Kansas by vetoing SB 117!”
In a statement, Uber spokeswoman Lauren Altmin said Uber works hard to provide safety and remains “committed to the thousands of Kansas residents who depend on the flexible economic opportunity and safe, reliable rides that the Uber platform provides. “
She touted the company’s current background checks, saying the company supports “using the best data possible in conducting driver partner screenings, which is why we work with experts to review every driver’s local, state and federal background.”
Uber’s aggressive campaign against the legislation has irritated lawmakers. Schwab said lawmakers aren’t trying to force out Uber. He contended the company is trying to bully the state in order to avoid regulation.
“The governor has to ask himself if he’s OK with being threatened. I’m not,” Schwab said.