A hard-fought bill to regulate ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft got the green light from Nevada lawmakers in the wee hours of Saturday morning, after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, several public failures for Uber and a marathon workday that ended with legislators apparently confused over which bills they were voting on.
The Assembly concurred early Saturday with an amendment to AB175, which creates regulations for “transportation network companies” that allow people to hail a ride through a smartphone and imposes a 3 percent fee on taxi and ride-hailing company fares. The measure goes to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who’s expected to sign it.
“Nevadans are the winners today,” Uber representatives said in a statement. “Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of both houses of the Nevada State Legislature, Uber is well on its way to returning to the Silver State, bringing with it thousands of jobs and greater access to safe, reliable and affordable transportation options.”
Uber has been barred from Nevada for months after a short-lived foray into the state.
Assembly members gave their blessing to the bill with a simple voice vote and little debate, but in an apparent mistake, they saved their grilling for a less-substantial companion measure, AB176, that had emerged late Friday night as a compromise between the taxi industry and Uber. It would have placed ride-hailing companies under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Transportation Authority, which regulates taxis and limos, rather than the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, which is best known for regulating electricity and gas.
“It’s going to be a race to the bottom in terms of quality of service and the quality of those who provide it,” Republican Assemblyman Glenn Trowbridge of Las Vegas said about ride-hailing during floor speeches on AB176. “The obvious result will be a reduction of transportation service for our tourists, and it’s a reduction in the earnings for our professional drivers.”
Anti-tax Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Las Vegas Republican, asked whether AB176 contained taxes and was told it didn’t. But the bill that passed minutes earlier, AB175, did contain a fare tax that’s projected to raise anywhere from $70 million to $100 million for the state over two years.
Assembly members took a voice vote on AB176 and it was declared passed, but when Republican Assemblyman John Moore called for a roll call, legislative leaders determined that the measure had failed 19-23.
The result of the first bill passing and the second failing?
“Uber’s legal, but the PUC is going to regulate it,” Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said.
An effort by tired legislators to reconvene shortly after adjourning to reconsider their votes ultimately failed.
The nighttime drama signals the end of a long saga for Uber, which briefly operated in Nevada last fall before a judge issued a restraining order against it for not following rules for taxicabs.
A proposal to create a separate regulatory framework for ride-hailing companies was declared the most-lobbied issue of the legislative session and set up a showdown between the well-heeled taxi industry and multibillion-dollar Uber, a darling of the tech world.
Measures regulating Uber failed two Senate votes earlier this spring amid Democratic concerns that they skimped on the stringent safety regulations governing cabs. But Senate opponents came on board with a compromise bill that promises to evaluate the background checks mandated in-house by ride-hailing companies and raises much-needed money that could fund projects, including a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The ride-hailing decision was among the biggest on tap as the 120-day legislative session heads toward its June 1 closing date.