It seems Gov. Sam Brownback has a tough decision to make: Either allow ride-sharing services to operate in Kansas – and provide you with better, more personalized transportation options – or ban them. But when you consider what’s at stake for Kansans, his choice is actually quite easy.
Uber, Lyft and similar ride-sharing services offer consumers safe, affordable rides through smartphone apps. The services even let riders pay via credit card, avoiding the hassle of cash transactions.
More and more people are using ride-sharing services for commuting and work-related travel. A recent study found that Uber alone accounted for almost half of expensed business rides in the first quarter of 2015, up from 15 percent just a year ago. And ride-sharing services are job creators for enterprising drivers.
Yet the Kansas Legislature – under pressure from special interests – passed Senate Bill 117. The bill, awaiting a final decision by the governor, originally was designed to create a pro-business, regulatory framework for ride-booking services. But two “poison-pill” amendments were added.
One would require would-be drivers for ride-sharing services to carry a level of insurance not currently required in any of the other 49 states, or required of anyone else operating a private vehicle for other business purposes in Kansas. The second punitive amendment would require that all ride-sharing drivers be fingerprinted – a substantial invasion of privacy.
What’s surprising is Kansas’ sudden reversal on innovation. The state is known for a vibrant tech workforce and business-friendly tax system, ranking highly as an “Innovation Leader” in the Consumer Electronics Association’s first-ever Innovation Scorecard.
The sudden pushback against Uber and Lyft makes absolutely no sense – for Kansas or consumers. These startups are prime examples of what innovation can achieve – leveraging the power of technology to provide great service to people all across the state. Driving these companies off the road is a job-killer that will weaken Kansas’ reputation for welcoming innovation and new technology.
The governors of Colorado, Illinois and Virginia have all faced similar situations recently, and ultimately each one vetoed or halted administrative actions that would have denied their residents access to innovation.
Kansas must reconsider this shortsighted and protectionist move. We can’t let special interests regulate Uber and Lyft out of existence, favoring the entrenched status quo over innovation and consumer choice.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, based in Arlington, Va.