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Uber Cranks Up Lobbying Effort in Response to Insurance Bill

Will Uber leave Minnesota?

Will Uber leave Minnesota?

Uber is pushing hard to stop, or at least water down a bill that would increase insurance requirements of "transportation network companies" in Minnesota.

Yesterday the lobbying started with a truck driving around the Capitol carrying a message about how the bill will kill 5,000 jobs.

See also: Uber Threatens to Leave Minnesota If It Has to Get Better Insurance Coverage

"They've got a truck out there driving around saying I'm killing thousands of jobs, but in reality we just want to avoid situations where someone is hurt and the driver doesn't have the proper coverage," said Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent). "This is all started with our state's own insurance commissioner pointing out there's a gap in coverage, and we want to fix that."

There's three phases defined in the insurance bill:

Phase 1: Driver is logged on the app and looking for passengers. Phase 2: Driver connected with passenger and is on the way to pick them up. Phase 3: Driver is transporting passenger to destination.

Originally Swedzinski's bill called for TNCs to carry $1.5 million of insurance for every phase, but those have been reduced to $1 million.

The biggest sticking point remaining is whether or not TNCs should have to insure drivers for Phase 1.

The ridesharing industry argues drivers could just always keep the app on, even when they're not really working, allowing them to maintain 24/7 coverage on the company's dime.

Swedzinski counters that Phase 1 is when drivers are at their most distracted, because they're fiddling with the app searching for customers.

"Most folks feel that first phase is actually the most dangerous because you're looking at your phone trying find work, potentially very distracted," he said.

Uber is holding to its threat that it will leave Minnesota if it has to insure drivers when they're not picking up or transporting a passenger. It held a rally at the capitol yesterday afternoon and is sending out emails to its customers asking them to sign a petition telling legislators to vote down the TNC insurance bill.

"I think it's disingenuous for the industry to say they're just going to leave because we're asking them to do some common sense things," says Swedzinski. "I hope they don't just use political power to pressure legislators into making the wrong decision for the wrong reasons."

Send news tips to Ben Johnson.