- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House advanced legislation Thursday that would impose statewide regulations on app-based ride-hailing services, a move companies Uber and Lyft support.

House members voted 113-38 Monday to give initial approval to a bill that would require companies to conduct background checks on drivers and ensure vehicles are insured. The legislation would also replace local rules on driver certification and background checks and would ban cities and municipalities from setting additional requirements.

Uber and Lyft say they already require background checks and vehicle insurance. Uber says having one set of rules statewide could help the company offer services beyond the state’s metropolitan areas, and Lyft, which pulled out of the state following a lawsuit, also is backing the bill.

The measure has bipartisan support in the Missouri House, where backers argued it could mean more jobs. Ferguson Democrat Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis said it’s a “pathway to the American dream.”

“It enhances competition, which is good for business,” said Republican bill sponsor Rep. Kirk Mathews, of Pacific. He added that it could improve ride services and make prices more competitive.

But opponents questioned whether the measure would create jobs. Democratic Rep. Deb Lavender, of Kirkwood, said new jobs with ride-hailing companies could mean taxicab drivers lose their jobs. Kansas City Democrat Rep. Jeremy LaFaver said regulation should be up to cities.

“We can do this at the city level,” LaFaver said. “It’s better done at the city level.”

The legislation also would mandate that companies provide customers with fare estimates, pay an annual permit fee of $5,000 and adopt zero-tolerance policies against drivers using drugs or alcohol while working. Convicted sex offenders and some other felons would be banned from providing rides through those companies.

The House gave initial approval to a similar regulatory plan last year. But the proposal lost momentum after Kansas City in April reached an agreement with ride-hailing companies to establish a certification system for drivers.

Lyft pulled out of St. Louis after a 2014 lawsuit from the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission and has since halted its operations in Missouri. Uber has said it is the only such company currently offering rides in Missouri, with drivers limited to St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.

The measure needs a second vote of approval to pass out of the House.

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Ride-hailing measure is HB 2330.

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Online:

Missouri House: https://house.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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