- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Ride-hailing company Uber has hired Gov. Sam Brownback’s former campaign manager and several high-profile lobbyists to represent it in an expected legislative battle over regulations.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office said Mark Dugan, who managed Brownback’s successful 2014 re-election campaign, registered as a lobbyist for Uber on Monday, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1z9GrKh ) reported.

Brownback vetoed a bill April 20 that would have required state background checks and broader insurance coverage for drivers for ride-hailing companies such as Uber. Backers of the bill are vowing to attempt to override the veto during the wrap-up session that begins Wednesday.

The governor’s office said Dugan played no role in the decision to veto the bill. Uber had vowed to cease operations in the state without a veto, and Brownback earlier had called the legislation “premature.”

Will McCollum, Uber’s general manager for Kansas and Colorado, said the newly hired lobbyists show the company’s commitment to the Kansas market. He would not talk about details of the lobbyists’ contracts.

“And hopefully those kinds of actions will back up those kinds of words … so hopefully we’ll be able to get to a situation where there’s not an overturn vote,” he said. “And come a year from now, we’ll be talking about another bill and the market will have had a year to prove itself.”

The bill passed the Legislature with large majorities: 35-2 in the Senate and 107-16 in the House. Republican Rep. Scott Schwab from Olathe, one of the chief negotiators for the final version of the bill, has said he will seek to override the veto. That would require 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House, although many legislators may be reluctant to cross the governor.

Since the veto, Uber has expanded into Lawrence, Topeka, Leavenworth and Manhattan. It already operates in the Wichita and Kansas City metro areas.

The company began the session with lobbyists Matt Hickam and Beka Romm.

Besides Dugan, the other new Uber lobbyists are Jason Watkins, who also serves as a lobbyist for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce; Watkins’ business partner, Scott Schneider; Jonathan Small, the state’s former adjutant general and a lobbyist for Koch Industries; Steve Palmer, a lobbyist with Grayling, an international public affairs firm based in Washington, D.C.; and John Bottenberg, a Topeka-based lobbyist with clients that include AT&T, Westar and the Kansas Speedway Corp.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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