Pando

Not in Kansas anymore: Uber leaves Kansas after lawmakers demand background checks and more insurance

By Nathaniel Mott , written on May 6, 2015

From The News Desk

Uber isn't in Kansas anymore.

The company left after the state's House and Senate were able to override Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a bill that would require Uber drivers to buy new insurance and pass Kansas Bureau of Investigation background checks.

Kansas lawmakers want to make sure drivers have insurance that covers the times when a driver has no passengers -- and is therefore not covered by business insurance -- but is behind the wheel of their work vehicle -- and is therefore not covered by personal insurance either.

Ride-hailing startups have struggled with this problem for years. RelayRides was issued a cease-and-desist in New York over insurance concerns in 2013, and Uber has tested numerous initiatives to make sure its drivers are covered.

The lawmakers also wanted to ensure that drivers for all ride-hailing startups -- not just Uber -- are required to pass government-provided background checks. Uber's background checks have been criticized for several high-profile blunders.

Uber claims that the requirements imposed by the bill "makes it impossible for Uber to operate in the state" and immediately suspended activity yesterday. It promises to return to Kansas, but it's not clear when or how it will do that.

The company has also been loud about its claims that this new bill has cost "hundreds of Kansas jobs and thousands of new earning opportunities in the coming years." It also claims that overriding Brownback's veto makes Kansas the first state to force Uber out with "unbalanced, backward regulations."

That isn't true. And according to Senate President Susan Wagle, who spoke with the Kansas City Star via email, Uber's just trying to drum up some sympathy:

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, called Uber’s announcement 'pure political theater.'

'The Legislature has not taken any action preventing them from operating,' she said in an email. 'They have a consistent pattern of irrational behavior, and this is just the latest example.' Wagle is right. Uber does have a history of leaving a city for some reason or another, beating the drums of over-regulation and anti-libertarianism, and working its supporters into enough of a frenzy that its opponents are willing to negotiate just so they won't have to deal with a bunch of enraged Randians.

I wonder how long Uber will wait to click its heels three times, whisper "There's nothing sweeter than money," and return to Kansas without putting up a fuss.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]