Uber threatens to leave Iowa if Senate bill becomes law

Measure would require comprehensive, collision insurance on vehicles with liens

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DES MOINES — The ride-hailing company Uber says a bill being considered by Iowa lawmakers is “unworkable” and may cause the business to stop operating in the state if passed into law.

A bill in the Iowa Senate would create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, which now are governed by city regulations where they operate.

Uber’s concern with the state legislation, which received a hearing Tuesday at the state Capitol, is over a provision that mandates comprehensive and collision insurance coverage for drivers using cars with liens.

When a similar provision was put into law in Kansas, the company stopped operating in the state. Kansas later repealed that provision, and Uber immediately resumed operating there.

“That is completely unworkable for us,” Michael White, general manager of Uber in Iowa, told lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing. “It is an extreme condition.”

Ride-hailing companies like Uber use an Internet application to connect drivers who use their own vehicles with customers looking for a ride.

Uber operates in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Ames. White said the company has served more than 100,000 Iowans since beginning operations in the state.

The comprehensive and collision mandate in the Senate legislation was introduced at the behest of state bankers looking to protect their investments in car loans.

“We have a lien we’ve made, the loan on the vehicle the Uber driver is using ... We want to know it’s insured,” said Jim Carney, a lobbyist for Wells Fargo.

White said aside from the comprehensive and collision insurance mandate, the company is largely supportive of the rest of the Senate bill, which was crafted to mirror legislation designed by the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. He said the company prefers statewide policy to city-by-city regulations.

Some insurance companies also supported the legislation at Tuesday’s hearing.

“The fact is this is an important issue, and Iowa is a state where these transportation network companies are operating, and we don’t have a uniform regulatory scheme across the state. That’s what this legislation does,” said Marc Beltrame, a lobbyist for Nationwide Insurance.

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