Partisan Capitalizes on Uber Snafu

by William Skink

The popular ride-sharing service known as Uber has apparently hit a snag in Montana and that snag is insurance:

Following the licensing of ride-sharing services in Montana in December, floods of interested drivers began filing with Uber for driving permits.

Vaclav Trnka, a Billings man, worked as a taxi driver in his home country, and was very excited to learn Uber would start operating in Montana.

“Driving is kind of very comfortable for me and I’m thinking this is a good opportunity because you can drive when you want,” said Trnka.

Uber’s motto is all about convenience.

But now, Montanans like Trnka are finding that many insurance companies are putting the brakes on the ride-sharing service.

“Since my insurance company Progressive says no, I called several other insurances and they do some research and everyone has the same rules for Montana,” said Trnka. “They don’t let you drive for money basically.”

I was critical of this bipartisan effort to deregulate Montana for Uber, writing this post in May of last year.

Despite this legislation receiving bipartisan support, Don Pogreba is now trying to score some partisan points at ID after his quest to get info on this legislative effort has been thwarted:

One has to wonder just what’s in that massive collection of e-mails. Perhaps there is an explanation for why those who wrote and promoted the bill failed to see that insurance would present a problem for drivers who wasted their money on UBER inspections. Perhaps there’s some information about who influenced the legislation and how. Perhaps some member of the media can make a public records request for the spreadsheet of e-mails that was generated, because this citizen isn’t getting the information he asked for.

Maybe Don should enlist the help of Rep. Hill, a Democrat from Missoula. Rep. Hill was an enthusiastic supporter of this legislation and may be able to help Don get the information he wants, unless of course there is something there that she doesn’t want to see the light of day.

Personally, I’m not surprised those who wrote and supported this bill failed to see this insurance problem. Why? Because one of those co-sponsors didn’t anticipate how the increase in price for getting a Montana ID could impact poor people, something I also wrote about:

I found out today the Motor Vehicle Division of the Montana Department of Justice will be doubling the cost of state ID’s in July, from $8.oo to $16.oo. The reason? These new ID’s will now be 8 year ID’s instead of the measly 4 years they are now. So if you’re looking to replace a lost or stolen ID—not a rare occurrence—it’s going to cost you double.

The reason I know all this is because the information was offered, quite unsolicited, by the nice lady I happened to be talking to at Missoula’s Motor Vehicle Division.

She went on to say that this increase was not “asked for”. Apparently this decision to increase cost came from our lovely state legislature, though I haven’t verified that. I asked: would a 4 year option still be available? She replied: no.

Even more embarrassing, Rep. Hill made a comment on that post that wasn’t accurate, so I guess she isn’t even informed about the legislation she is promoting. Here is a portion of that comment:

The bill had virtually no opposition and it was an effort to create equity for individuals who purchase identification cards in lieu of driver’s licenses. I was asked to carry the bill by a Missoula constituent, the President of the Montana Federation for the Blind… a helluva nice guy.

As you pointed out, in our post-9/11 nanny-state, we need an state-issued I.D. to take a leak anymore and for people who don’t drive (like blind and disabled people), they were forced to operate by more onerous standards to obtain and maintain that I.D. than someone who is able to obtain a simple driver’s license.

In short, they were forced to go back to the DMV more often than necessary just because they can’t drive. Folks still have the option to purchase the four year I.D. if they want. The bill created options and I don’t believe it “gouges” Montana consumers whatsoever.

And here is my reply:

maybe there’s an issue with how this is being interpreted by the motor vehicle department, because I put in a call today just to make sure I have been told accurate information, and the person I talked to, after speaking with her supervisor, confirmed that, if you’re over 21, a 4-year state ID is not an option.

So, yes, it’s not surprising that sometimes legislators are short-sighted when it comes to anticipating potential problems with the bills they are turning into state law.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Partisan Capitalizes on Uber Snafu

  1. Big Swede says:

    As far as ID’s are concerned the best is yet to come.

    “If you thought it was a pain in the backside to get through the TSA screening process and make it to your plane before, prepare for things to get a bit more restrictive, expensive and – in some cases – practically impossible. As we discussed here last year, the Real ID Act is in place, though remaining mostly dormant for the moment. But when the reprieve expires over the next couple of years, travelers in states where your drivers license or other state issued identification isn’t up to snuff will need a passport to get on a plane. And in a separate, but very much relevant development, the IRS will be able to invalidate your passport in some cases if you fall behind on your taxes. In other words, some of you may wind up grounded. (Forbes)”-Hot Air.

    Your papers please.

  2. Big Swede says:

    Off Topic Alert.

    Thought you progs would get a kick out of this one.

  3. Matthew Koehler says:

    My recollection – and impression as an observer of social media and news accounts – was that the Uber bill may have been the most celebrated and cheered bi-partisan bills of that entire session, especially among some progressive Dems and some of the younger GOP legislators.

    This bi-partisan cheering happened despite concerns expressed by some over potential safety risks to Uber passengers, fairness to Uber employes and also concerns expressed by organized labor over Uber’s business model, especially in towns (like Madison, WI, I believe) that have unionized taxi drivers.

    Given all this, It would seem weird, and dishonest, to somehow make the current/emerging problems with the Uber bill related to insurance, or other issues, a partisan affair in Montana.

    • While I appreciate the fact that you managed to go one whole comment before attacking my professionalism as a teacher again, Matt, here’s a simple question for you: since Representative Zolnikov clearly got the most press attention for the UBER bill, both during the session and after, doesn’t it seem reasonable to begin a public records request with him?

      That he refused to answer my request and that Leg Services stopped responding to my requests hardly seems like a partisan issue. Don’t you think government officials and bureaucrats should be held accountable to follow the law?

      Or is it the case, that because I am a supporter of Democratic politicians, I can’t make such a request?

      Just curious.

      • Matthew Koehler says:

        Hi Don, While I appreciate the fact that anyone who responds to some of your childish rants and brings up teaching is supposedly, in your mind, “making another attack impugning my professionalism as a teacher” (which is what you wrote me in an email)…here is what I actually wrote in that comment.

        What’s funny is that at first I started off this comment saying “Some might view this an attack on teaching, but….”

        For some reason I removed that intro before submitting the comment, but looks like I should’ve kept it. You can’t go around Don attacking the work of others (environmentalists, as you’ve done repeatedly, for example) and not expect people to look at your comments in the context of your profession. If you view the following comment, in the context of your school-yard comments to William Skink or JC as “”making another attack impugning my professionalism as a teacher,” so be it.

        “Once again it’s strange to me that someone employed as a public school English teacher would go to such lengths to 1) make fun of people’s writing and 2) Flippantly and passive-aggressively raise mental health issues (which is certain a serious public health crisis in America).”

        P.S. For the record, I’m technically a certified history and English teacher myself. I love teachers, teaching and totally respect the profession.

      • Matthew Koehler says:

        Hi Don, As to your public records request and the questions you pose. Yes, of course I believe government officials and bureaucrats should be held accountable and follow the law.

        I don’t have as much experience dealing with open records requests with the state of Montana, as I do with the feds via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). However, each time I tried to do an open records request with the state, at first I was met with roadblocks, threats of massive fees, refusal to give me exactly what I requested, etc.

        [For the record, the first state Open Records request I did was for information about the University of Montana’s proposed $16 million wood-burning biomass plant and the second was for information regarding Bullock’s secret, no public notice, no public input process for nominating 5 million acres of National Forest lands in Montana for ‘fast-track’ logging ‘categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA’.]

        Perhaps you should enlist the help of lawyer, a frustrating but sometimes necessary step to get to the bottom of things and obtain all the public records you want. Or perhaps you just need to re-phrase your request and really zero in on what you want? That was always something that came up with Federal FOIA requests. Or instead of just asking Rep Zolnikov for a public records request, assuming the Uber bill went through a Committee, that might be a better door to knock on. Without knowing what you asked Zolnikov, and exactly how you asked it, it’s tough to tell. You’d think he would know the law and requirements and one possibility is that he isn’t breaking those at this point based on the original request.

        I also have never dealt with Legislative Services, so honestly don’t know if they are even the best folks to rope into this. Good luck digging. I’d say don’t give up, make another request (maybe changing what you are asking for) and if you still get nothing, lawyer up.

        • Bob Williams says:

          Matthew, like your approach and information and deep digging!! Montana Hotline FOIA
          has been responsiive and helpful for shallow digging, in one critical case I know of, when an unassociated variety of citizens requested a specific body of apparently public information be legally evaluated to see if it really was public information and if revealed would lead to more citizen participation.

  4. JC says:

    Don has a simple solution. The state has a Sunshine Act granting citizens’ rights to look at public information. Once can either exercise that right, and take the state to court over failure to provide records, or one can whine about it and demand that others make the request, thereby diluting the effectiveness of the Act.

    Don’s passing the request off to the media to do what each and every citizen has the right to do — request and receive public information in a timely fashion — is the exact reason that the state fails to uphold certain requests. Successfully stonewalling the public creates precedence. So does filing lawsuits.

    I had the distinct privilege of leading a lawsuit by three nonprofits against the state 15 years ago to uphold citizen’s rights under Sunshine laws when the state wouldn’t produce records, and winning. I also had the less than distinct privilege of having an armed guard look over my shoulder for a few days in a dank, dark basement as I plowed through boxes of records produced by our successful lawsuit. Even after losing the lawsuit the state resorted to intimidation as retaliation.

    • And since I can’t respond on the other thread, please realize that while the threat of blog war is quite scary, given the vast reach and credibility of this site, you might ask yourself why your site seems obsessively focused with what I write. Do you really believe that you’re going to persuade me? That other people are impressed with what you’re doing? That attacking a tiny blog about Montana politics will further your aims of destroying global capitalism?

      I suspect there are bigger targets in the world.

      Once again, what is the point? I haven’t written a word about this site for months. Can you two think about doing the same for me?

      If you think this is a valuable use of time, I guess keep following the same predictable pattern:

      Accuse me of being a partisan, sometimes with personal attacks embedded.
      Allow commenters to impugn my profession and attack my intelligence and even identity.
      Flame War.

      What, I ask you, is the point?

      Are you mad that I get more traffic? That I don’t have you on my blogroll? That I don’t agree with 65% of what gets written here? That the Missoula Indy didn’t interview your pseudonyms?

      I don’t know how to stop this childishness, so once again, I ask, can you two just knock it off and let this go?

      I’m sure I know the answer, but I thought I’d ask one more time.

      • so you want to post your political screeds without criticism from us? no, that’s not going to happen. and though you claim to have not written about us, you do continue to comment here, just like LK continues to spout his trash at your site. you whine about toxicity, but despite the requests from your fellow blogger, you do nothing. why?

        you claim that no one reads this site, so I’m not sure why you even care about what we write here. I’m going to keep writing, especially now that I have all this free time and the ability to write more directly about Montana issues. if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

      • Steve W says:

        Don, i’m a blog reader and occasionally i have a lot to say.

        I like reading well done media criticism and if you can write about the HR why can’t JC, Skink, or the HR write about your small media outlet?

        You seem afraid of what might be said about you,or your publicly self promoted writings and want some special dispensation to be immune from media criticism.

        Good luck with that.

        • I think the reason is not because I am concerned about their criticism. I really don’t care. I find most of it laughable and quite repetitive. The reason I suggest that we avoid writing about each other’s sites is that it will inevitably blow up into a fight over this nonsense. Witness JC’s threat to come after me, for example.

          The second reason is that it’s pointless. We’re simply not going to persuade each other.

          Given those two facts, doesn’t it just make sense to knock it off?

          I guess not. And now I can look forward to another of increasingly irrational, angry posts from JC.


        • JC says:

          Feeling paranoid much, Don? What are you afraid of? You can dish out all the criticism of other people and campaigns, and what-not, but when it comes to any criticism of you or your blog you just melt.

          Instead of replying to the substantive comment I made about your info request, you chose to just go on the attack. I worked with the current Commissioner of Political Practices, Jonathan Motl, and his law firm 15 years ago to uphold citizens’ rights and set some precedence on access to government documents. We won, and we opened a lot of avenues for others to follow in our footsteps.

          It is Sunshine Week so this is particularly pertinent, so I think that if you don’t assert your right, once you have filed a request for public documents, then you are doing the public a disservice by not following through with some muscle when you are stonewalled. If the state successfully stonewalls an information request, then it is emboldened to do so when the next request arrives.

          Is that such a difficult notion?

  5. Oh, no, you got me. I’m a partisan.

    Damn. You guys are so close to cracking the neoliberal cabal. I can feel the revolution inching ever closer with every post.

    Keep at, heroes of the revolution!

  6. Perhaps this modest proposal.

    At the end of every post, why not just append the following?

    Don Pogreba is a shitty teacher and human being. He’s either a partisan shill or actually not himself, but a face for the Montana Democratic Party. And he’s a moron. And a partisan. Did I mention that he’s a partisan?

    That’ll save innumerable hours for some of the commenters and posters here.

    I can write up a script to do that automatically, if you’d like.

    • interesting, before reading your last two comments I literally just sent off an email that anticipated your positioning yourself as the victim and further depictions regarding JC’s mental stability.

      I’m sorry you can’t handle substantive criticism, Don, but that isn’t going to stop me from offering my impressions on the political charade you help perpetuate. again, if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

      • Friend says:

        Oh my God. The guy who posts sad little stories about needing a gun to defend himself is attacking someone for playing the victim. You’re too much.

        • thanks for the comment, friend. I have lots of sad little stories that I haven’t even shared yet, just waiting for the right time 😉

  7. Guess I picked the wrong day to say that Don is an interesting man. And to give up glue sniffing.

  8. I can’t believe how embarrassed I am to have engaged this place again. I’m embarrassed that I let concern about my reputation being impugned by anonymous posters get to me again. I’m sure I’ll get pulled back in again sometime, but hopefully this exchange will remind me of the kind of people I am dealing with before I do.

    Lesson learned. Post away, trolls.

    Have fun storming the castle, boys. I think one more post calling a local legislator a drunk or pointing out that I am a partisan will collapse capitalism. That shit is hard hitting. And totally fair.

    I’m going to try not to let links to my site or google searches lead me back here, best as I can, so let me know when Mark and JC have cracked the case on the CIA-manufactured killings in Paris and San Bernardino, okay? The world needs to know.

    To be clear, so you don’t have to post it, I’m going to block your comments at my site and delete trackbacks that come that way. If you want to believe that’s because I can’t handle your insightful criticism, so be it. I certainly can’t control your perception of reality, and certainly can’t expect reasonable debate between us.

    Good night, and good luck.

Leave a Reply