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Vote to allow UberX in St. Louis delayed as officials call for closed-door negotiations

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission Chair Lou Hamilton held Wednesday's meeting at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park to accomodate the large number of anticipated attendees.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission postponed voting Wednesday on proposals that could clear the way for UberX and other transportation network companies to operate in the city and county.  

Commission Chair Lou Hamilton cited a request by the offices of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger to allow stakeholders to meet in private to reconcile differing proposals.

“We were prepared to vote. We would’ve voted,” Hamilton said. “I have people on the commission that [sic] are unhappy that we didn’t vote, but we have to defer to the wishes of our appointing authorities.”

Hamilton explained the commissioners are appointed by the mayor and county executive.

“They set the policy; we execute the policy that they ask or we don’t stay on the commission,” he said.

Moving behind closed doors

Separate proposals for changing the commission’s code to allow for ride-sharing services have been drafted by Hamilton and staff from Uber, but they still need to be reconciled before the commission votes, said Mayor Slay's Chief of Staff, Mary Ellen Ponder.

“So there’s been a lot of conversation back and forth but nothing on paper until late Monday evening,” she said. “Now we can really talk in real terms about what the changes need to be. Where there’s room for agreement and disagreement and where we can come together.”

Ponder said she’s hoping for negotiations to begin Friday.

Sticking Points

The key issues the commission still needs to resolve involve insurance coverage, drug tests and fingerprint background checks for drivers.

The first two issues, said Hamilton, could probably be solved with little effort, but allowing UberX drivers to work without fingerprint background checks would require changing state law.

Hamilton explained that, unlike Kansas City, where UberX is already permitted to operate, St. Louis and St. Louis County don’t have direct control over all of their taxicab regulations.   

“The difference is Kansas City’s ordinances are set by the Kansas City City Council. Our governing authority is set by the Missouri Legislature,” he said. “Kansas City can require finger prints if they want, but they didn’t. MTC is required to by state law.”

Hamilton said he plans to schedule a special meeting in August after negotiations are concluded. 

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