The bill that turned Illinois into the focal point of a bitter debate over car-sharing last year started as a proposal about what happens when a rental car is stolen. The legislation, which would allow rental companies to punish customers if they don’t return a stolen vehicle’s keys and file a police report, had passed the state Senate unanimously and was expected to be similarly uncontroversial in the House. Then an amendment in mid-May scrubbed all the language from the bill and replaced it with a plan to regulate websites that allow people to rent their cars to strangers.
The new language echoed the priorities of Enterprise Holdings Inc., America’s largest car-rental company, which contributes tens of thousands of dollars annually to political candidates and parties in the state. The traditional car rental industry began to push last year for new state rules on the upstarts, in part through its trade group, the American Car Rental Association. The gist of the Illinois law—and of numerous other bills the rental industry has supported over the last year—is that rules and taxes that apply to traditional car rentals should also be imposed on car-sharing platforms.