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New Law Could Mean More Uber Drivers In Iowa

Flickr / Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

Iowa now has statewide regulations for ride-sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft.  Gov. Terry Branstad signed legislation into law on Monday, requiring ride-sourcing companies in Iowa to conduct driver background checks.

Drivers must also have a $1 million insurance policy and may only provide pre-arranged rides, meaning they are prohibited from being hailed like a traditional taxicab.

The new law stops cities from implementing tougher local regulations, and trumps ordinances created in Des Moines and Iowa City, where Uber currently operates. 

"It's real exciting for the industry, for the riders and drivers, and the economic opportunities that will be created for everyone with this uniform regulation as well," says Sagar Shah, general manager for Uber Iowa. "One excellent outcome from this bill is the ability to expand elsewhere in the state, so we want to be in Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Waterloo and other cities in Iowa we don't currently operate."

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 34 other states have enacted similar legislation.

"Statehouses have really moved fast on this issue," says NCSL Transportation Program Director Douglas Shinkle. "To go from zero states to 35 is really a testament to the level of market penetration that these services have in the United States, and how quickly that’s ramped up, and really their popularity and their ubiquity."

Shinkle adds he wouldn't be surprised if some states craft further refinements  as more is learned about how ride sourcing is used and operates. 

In addition to Des Moines and Iowa City, people can grab an Uber in Ames, Cedar Rapids, and the Quad Cities. Lyft does not operate in Iowa.

Also on Monday, Uber and Lyft officially pulled out of Austin in protest of a city ordinance requiring finger printing as part of driver background checks.