Year in Brief: Missouri OKs statewide ride-hailing regulations, grapples with home-sharing laws

The ride-hailing industry scored a big regulatory win in Missouri in 2017, while some cities elsewhere are imposing stricter restrictions on how these firms can operate.

As the sharing economy continues growing in the state, policymakers are now mulling ways to regulate home-sharing platforms like Airbnb and Homeaway. The challenge will be finding a balance between the needs of the platforms, their users and the communities around them.

The Year in Brief looks at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2017, and that will continue to shape the state in 2018 and beyond.

After three years and little progress, Missouri finally pushed through a bill in April to govern the way services like Uber and Lyft are regulated statewide. The bill exempted ride-hailing companies, or “transportation network companies,” from the same rules governing taxicabs.

Under this bill, each company is required to pay a $5,000 licensing fee and negotiate separate contracts with airports. Individual drivers are required to have liability insurance and submit to background checks by the companies, but no commercial driver’s license is required, freeing up the companies to recruit more part-time drivers.

In return for the bill’s passage, Uber has promised 10,000 new jobs for part-time drivers in the state. Uber has since expanded beyond cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia, now servicing northern and southern parts of the state such as Branson and Joplin.

St. Louis officials in August settled on a $3-per-trip fee for ride-hailing companies to operate at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Critics decried the arrangement as unfair to local taxi companies, which pay a $4 fee for airport trips.

Home-sharing services

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill in April to offer home-sharing services similar statewide exemptions from city ordinances, the Springfield News Leader reports. The bill never received a hearing in the Senate before the end of the legislative session, but lawmakers may revisit the issue in 2018.

In the meantime, it has been left to municipalities, and a handful of cities have weighed measures that would require licensing and fees for amateur hoteliers.

Kansas City has been considering a “short-term stay” ordinance that would require Airbnb hosts to register with the city and pay annual fees.

A proposal unveiled by Kansas City officials in May would address a main point of concern: Airbnb listings where the owners do not live in the spaces they rent out. The proposal would require these hosts to pay a $259 fee and get consent signatures from neighbors.

Airbnb has derided the ordinance as “restrictive and burdensome,” but it was approved by the Kansas City Plan Commission in August. It’s up for a vote by the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, and the committee will hold a hearing on the draft ordinance on Jan. 17.

Another proposed ordinance, in Columbia, would charge Airbnb guests a 5 percent lodging tax, the Columbia Missourian reports.

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