Nevada lawmakers reviewed bills Monday that could lead to regulations specific to ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, a prospect that cab and limo services criticize as a double standard that would harm customers and undermine the state’s tax base.
Members of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee discussed SB439 and SB440, which would create a regulatory framework for so-called transportation network companies that allow people to hail a ride using a smartphone app and create a corresponding class of insurance.
The measures come after Uber’s rocky and short-lived entry into the Nevada market in the fall.
“My goal is to find a home for ridesharing,” said Steve Thompson, a general manager of Uber in Phoenix, who testified at the hearing.
SB439 would set up a special permit and fee for ride-hailing companies, establish requirements for driver background checks and vehicle inspections and create rules passenger data privacy.
The companion bill, SB440, creates a framework for insurance policies that cover ride-hailing services. Insurers say they want to make sure that drivers have a special level of coverage whenever they’re available for fares — not just when they have a customer in the car.
Uber briefly operated in Nevada last fall before a state judge issued a restraining order, saying the company refused to follow regulations governing taxicab companies.
Uber contends it’s fundamentally different from cab companies and needs special regulations.
Taxi and limo companies disagree and have hired political heavyweights to testify on their behalf, including Democratic former Nevada governor and senator Richard Bryan and Republican former governor Robert List.
List cited a study saying the entry of companies such as Uber could reduce the Nevada taxicab market by at least 30 percent, and said that would result in about 1,800 lost jobs and $208 million in negative economic impact.
He acknowledged some of that might be offset by gains in jobs with ride-hailing companies, but he said it was difficult to quantify.
“We should place employment in real, full-time jobs as the priority,” List said. “I see a phantom company operating in the ionosphere as opposed to the brick and mortar companies” with roots in Nevada.
Uber representatives said they are creating tens of thousands of flexible jobs, as well as fares that are more transparent and service that is faster and more responsive than traditional cabs.
“The Uber platform means more economic opportunity for drivers, greater choice for riders, and safer streets for the cities we call home,” the company said in a statement.