MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many people watching March Madness games at local bars may use Uber to get home Thursday night.

But supporters of the ride-share program say a bill at the Capitol would make working in the Twin Cities impossible.

“I love driving Uber,” driver Dustin Simko said. “It offers me flexibility, freedom. More importantly it offers the time to spend with my family and my kids.”

Simko left another career to join Uber and the hustle and bustle of downtown traffic. He now relies on an app to find people who need a ride. But if this bill passes, Simko says it could affect his future with Uber.

“If it impacts to where we can’t operate, those are jobs lost that’s provided to thousands of drivers in the cities,” Simko said.

The bill, which has sponsors in the House and Senate, would require online ride-hailing companies to cover their drivers’ cars with $1 million policies. That’s led to an online petition against the legislation, and a rally at the Capitol Thursday.

“It’s a way that limits our business model and our ability to expand within the state,” Uber Midwest general manager Michael White said. “The coverage required in these bills is simply unprecedented.”

But Insurance Federation of Minnesota spokesman Mark Kulda says the bill isn’t designed to drive Uber away. It’s simply to fix Uber’s current insurance policy, which Kulda believes is inadequate.

“The Department of Commerce looked at the insurance policy that was provided and noticed that it was deficient,” Kulda said.

He says the bill would require Uber to pay similar insurance to what limos and taxi companies pay. He feels the bill closes coverage gaps and makes Uber drivers and their passengers safer.

“It’s very similar and almost identical to what Utah just passed and put on the governor’s desk this week, and Uber said they are fine with,” Kulda said. “So it’s a little hard to have them come and say, ‘We’re opposed to the bill,’ when it’s basically the same bill they’re saying yes to it somewhere else.”

Uber says the bill would be the strictest in the country if it passed, and it would threaten their progress and growth in Minnesota.

A committee is currently working on the insurance coverage numbers at the Capitol to see how it would apply to Uber drivers.

In a press release, the company also said it makes the state’s roads safer.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Uber said it logged over 5,000 rides in Minnesota, contributing to the lowest DWI rate on the holiday in six years.

John Lauritsen

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