Uber, Lyft fight more regulations

A bill in the Legislature would impose new insurance rules on the ride-sharing companies.

Benjamin Farniok

State legislation that would place new insurance requirements on Uber and other ride-sharing services is facing fierce opposition from advocates and company leaders.

A proposal introduced at the state Capitol earlier this month would create new requirements for how peer-to-peer transportation services are insured. Uber and Lyft company leaders say the legislation is obstructive, while proponents say the proposal provides necessary rules for regulating the transportation networks in the state.

Minneapolis first legalized Uber and Lyft last year, despite issues raised by city leaders over the transportation networks’ gaps in insurance coverage and whether the services should acquire taxi licenses.

After the legislation was introduced, Uber activists started an email campaign asking users to urge their state representatives to oppose the proposal. An online petition against the legislation has already gathered more than 18,000 signatures.

“The legislation … would hurt the state’s economic future. It would not only stifle the local and growing ride-sharing industry and reduce the economic opportunities that it creates, but also deny local residents transportation choices,” Brooke Anderson, a regional representative for Uber, said in an email.

The proposal originally stated the ride-sharing companies have $1.5 million in coverage, but the number was lowered to $1 million after opponents said it exceeded the insurance requirements in other states.

In a House of Representatives committee meeting last week, Mike White, Uber’s Midwest general manager, said if the legislation passes, the service could cease operations in Minnesota because the proposed cost of insurance coverage is beyond what the company can afford.

“A vote in support of this bill is a vote to have Uber no longer operate in Minnesota,” White said at the meeting.

Uber recently pulled out of San Antonio, Texas, after the city passed its own regulations for ride-sharing services, which included high insurance requirements and driver background checks.

Though the bill seems to have a fair amount of legislative support, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said he opposes it because he believes the insurance requirements are irrational.

Though Atkins said he supports the idea of requiring ride-sharing services to have insurance, he believes the amount is too high.

Other states already have similar regulations over their ride-sharing services in place.

The legislation has passed through various legislative committees. The Senate version of the bill will be heard at its third committee meeting on Friday, and state legislators will need to come to conclusion before the session ends in May.

Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, author of the Senate’s bill, said the proposal could be amended further, as legislators are still in the process of determining what they think the insurance requirements should be.

“We are still trying to figure out what is that balance,” she said.