Bigelow Republican Sen. Jason Rapert’s SB 800, which the city attorney of Little Rock says will allow Uber and other “transportation network companies” like it to get away with “woefully inadequate” insurance requirements, got a do pass from the House Insurance and Commerce Committee today. The Senate has already approved the bill.
In a letter sent yesterday to Sens. Linda Chesterfield, Joyce Elliott, David Burnett and David Johnson, City Attorney Tom Carpenter asked, “Why is a California life worth more than an Arkansas life?” and referred the senators to a California law that requires Uber to carry insurance on its drivers even when they are not on a call. California passed the law after an Uber driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl in San Francisco while on his way to pick up a passenger on New Year’s Eve. Because the Uber driver did not yet have a passenger in the car, Uber denied responsibility.
Under Rapert’s bill, Uber or another ride-sharing company would be required to carry only the minimum liability insurance requirements under state law — $25,000 per person — when there is no passenger in the car. Little Rock’s own Uber ordinance — which would be overridden if SB 800 becomes law — requires the company to have a commercial liability policy that would provide $250,000 for the injury or death of one person and a total of $500,000 for any one accident, among other provisions. And if Little Rock’s Uber ordinance is overriden, that means taxicabs in Little Rock will have a greater insurance burden than Uber.
Rapert’s bill would also allow Uber and other ride-sharing companies to use age 19 as the minimum for its drivers, would not regulate the age of automobiles, and would create an exemption to the FOIA that would shield its records. It also puts the regulation of companies like Uber under the Public Service Commission, which means complaints against the company would require formal action before a state commission.
Meanwhile, Uber is conducting an email campaign encouraging Arkansans to petition for passage of SB 800 — although the email says nothing about insurance, regulation of drivers or vehicles or the FOIA.
In fact, cynically enough, it says nothing about the bill at all. The message reads, in full:
Uber Needs Your Support
Tomorrow, a bill, SB 800, will be considered in the House that, if passed, could provide a permanent home for Uber in Arkansas, granting residents continued access to safe rides and countless new job opportunities. Sign the petition below to help ensure this bill is passed.
We’re calling on you to let your representatives know what Uber means to you. Urge them to support consumer choice and innovation by passing SB 800
SPREAD THE WORD THAT #ARNEEDSUBER