Although there had been a tease about a vote Monday night, the so-called Uber bill received only a thorough analysis from a city attorney in its first night on a Jefferson City Council agenda.
The highly popular ride-sharing service has enjoyed broad acceptance among state, county and city officials since it provided an estimated 1,000 free rides during the Jan. 9 inaugural of Gov. Eric Greitens.
Greitens even tweeted his support for Uber before the inaugural, when its representatives were asking the Council to suspend the City Charter rules and grant the app-based digital transportation service the opportunity to serve riders in Jefferson City for the first time — without the rigors of public hearings, committee review and at least two examinations before the Council.
The Council did OK that request for expedited permission to cruise the city during the inaugural and, led by Ward 2 Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich, seemed on a fast track for formal authorization as a new competitor for Checker Cab, the only taxi service in the Capital City.
The issue appeared on the 387-page agenda Monday night as Bill 2016-106, "Amending Code Pertaining to Vehicles for Hire." Assistant city attorney Bryan W. Wolford presented Mayor Carrie Tergin and the Council a chapter-by-chapter explanation of the existing city statute regulating "vehicles for hire" and the "vehicle for hire business."
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After his prepared review of the laws, however, Wolford received no questions from the mayor or members of the Council. That means the Uber bill is likely to face a vote at the March 6 Council meeting.
Uber and other Transportation Network Companies (TNC), including firms like Lyft and Via, raised City Law Department concerns relating "to the public safety aspects of the Vehicle for Hire regulations and the non-applicability of these regulations to free ride-sharing services. Such safety regulations include, but may not be limited to: insurance requirements, car inspections; background checks."
"If free ride-sharing services are exempt from these regulations," the city's lawyers suggested, "the city would in essence be relying on minimum safety regulations imposed by the state on all drivers and vehicles, i.e, auto insurance,and vehicle safety inspection requirements, and whatever requirements private ride-sharing application companies like Uber require from their drivers."
Uber claims over 100 drivers are registered with its service in the Jefferson City and Columbia area. Columbia already has an ordinance allowing the ride-sharing TNCs. The Missouri General Assembly is, for the second session, considering a statewide regulation on ride-sharing services.
Mihalevich was joined in his leadership in support of Uber by Councilwoman Erin Wiseman and Councilman Ken Hussey, both from Ward 3.
Tergin has been a staunch supporter of the TNCs and Uber specifically.