Yesterday the Missouri House gave its initial approval to a bill that would restrain a city from regulating businesses like Lyft and Uber.
These services allow individuals to use an app to hail a ride. The way it works is simple:
Passengers choose which kind of car service they’d like to request on the app, then plug in their location and in some cases, destination addresses. The app then alerts the customer when a car has been confirmed, and shows the driver’s name and license plate number while also displaying the driver’s route and estimated time of arrival. Riders then tell the driver where to go if that info isn’t already in the system, and then a receipt is emailed to the customer after the trip has completed. Passengers and drivers rate each other, as an incentive to be both good customers and provide feedback on drivers.
Some things need to be clarified. The companies that make the apps don’t own the cars. They simply connect drivers with people who need rides.
This setup is hated by taxicab companies, who lobby against it, which is what we’ve seen in Kansas City and St. Louis.
Enter, the Missouri Legislature.
The Missouri House gave its initial approval Wednesday night to a bill that would limit the ability of cities to regulate ride-hailing companies by creating statewide standards.
The vote comes just weeks after Kansas City approved new rules applying to both traditional taxis and new technology companies such as Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to link passengers with drivers using their own vehicles.
The legislation still has to be approved once more in the House before it would go to the Senate. It sets policies regarding background checks for drivers and guidelines for insurance. It also mandates companies — but not drivers — receive a permit from the local government.
Any regulations that go beyond the state standards would be prohibited under the bill.
Proponents say statewide standards will allow a new technology company to operate and expand throughout Missouri.
I’m not a fan of this.
This is a basic property rights issue, and beyond the control of any level of government.
Person A has a car. It’s their property.
Person B has a need to get somewhere. They’re willing to trade their property, money, for a ride.
Having a natural right to property and the free exercise thereof, Person A should be able to use their own property to give Person B a ride, while collecting a fee for their effort, as long as said fee is freely given.
Now, where does government have a role?
It certainly isn’t to make sure Person A has proper insurance, or is a safe driver, or has a background check.
Those are things taxicab companies want done because the cost to do those things limit competition.
So what should the Missouri Legislature do?
Nothing. Since it’s a property rights issue, there’s no role other than securing a person’s right to property, which they’ve already done.
The fact they feel the need to do something shows they don’t have faith in the people or the market.
Let me explain. Uber and Lyft are working in cities across the US.
If they are barred from cities in Missouri and the people want them, isn’t it the duty of the citizens to make the city open their doors to them?
That’s what they did in Washington, DC, where Uber started:
Uber rebelled and called on its customers to flood councilmembers’ email and phone systems with demands to strip out that language. Rather than let a fight over Uber sink the larger taxi legislation, the Council instead drafted an amendment that gave Kalanick’s company an exemption from DCTC oversight through December 31.
Remember, these politicians operate on fear. If they think there’s a chance they will lose their office over any given position, they will do what’s needed to keep that office.
Furthermore, isn’t it the duty of property owners to address their concerns to their elected officials, even if that means taking them to court?
Uber is a multi-billion dollar corporation. That buys some pretty good lawyers. They could help drivers in cities plead their cases. They could take one to the Supreme Court.
They don’t need the state government to fight it for them. And they certainly don’t need them to take action so “a new technology company” can “operate and expand throughout Missouri.”
The free market will do that, and make sure they do it safely.
What do you think?