Uber, Lyft say last-minute amendment would kill ride-sharing in Nevada

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder

Major ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft say their business model in Nevada is endangered after additional restrictions on their drivers surfaced in the Assembly late Friday and were heard in a budget committee Monday.

Legislators are beginning to hear major grumbling from ride-sharing companies, drivers and customers after a major amendment to SB226 proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Carrillo was attached to the bill late Friday and heard in Ways and Means on Monday morning to discuss the $3.5 million price tag that state regulators say it would cost to implement the bill.

Lyft sent an alert out to customers on Monday that the bill would “effectively end ride-sharing in Nevada,” and Argentum Partners lobbyist Molly Ellery sent an advisory to reporters complaining that the amendment was approved with “ no discussion, committee hearing or public debate.”

“If passed, this amendment would give taxi cabs a monopoly over Nevada’s transportation and would drive out innovative business and economic growth and, ultimately end ride-sharing in the state,” she said.

Carrillo, the sponsor of the amendment, declined to comment on the bill.

The amended version of the bill requires every driver for a transportation network company to obtain a permit from the Nevada Transportation Authority after undergoing a background check and meeting similar requirements for the traditional cab drivers.

It would also require the authority to issue a sticker to ride-sharing drivers, who would be required to affix it and the logo of the ride-sharing company on the front and rear of their vehicle.

The bill also allows independent contractors who lease a vehicle from taxi companies to use the same vehicle while working for a transportation network company, and raises insurance coverage minimums from $50,000 to $300,000 for property damage, injuries or deaths of individuals involved in crashes with ride-sharing drivers.

Ellery said that the hike in insurance minimums would be higher than what Uber currently offers for passenger trips, and would make Nevada’s insurance premiums the highest in the country for ride-sharing companies.

State regulators pegged the cost of such of a system at over $3.8 million for the two-year budget cycle, saying that licensing and tracking an estimated 40,000 ride-sharing drivers would require 25 new employees and various new hardware and software needs.

Taxi businesses gave more than $327,000 to legislators during the 2016 election cycle. Lyft made $2,500 in political contributions through the election cycle, and no state lawmakers reported receiving money from Uber.

Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton said that the committee would recommend placing the requested dollars — paid for out of the state’s Highway Fund —  in a contingency account to fund additional positions as needed. She said the bill would likely move out of committee soon, but would be placed on the chief clerk’s desk — a form of legislative limbo — until legislators met their constitutional requirement to approve the K-12 education budget before any other appropriations are approved.

She also asked that people reaching out to her or her office refrain from using profanity in emails, and said she would ask legislative police to call anyone who continues to send profane messages to her and her staff.

Several of the provisions in the bill appear to be similar to another measure — SB485 — which died without a hearing due to public pressure over some of the restrictions on ride-sharing companies, including a minimum 15 minute wait time for pickups. A union for Las Vegas taxi drivers in March asked lawmakers to place additional restrictions on ride-sharing companies to avoid what they called “unfair competition.”

State lawmakers in 2015 approved a regulatory framework for companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate in the state after several earlier attempts by the companies to operate in Nevada ended up in court.

Caption: Taxis travel along Las Vegas boulevard on Monday, March 20, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Updated at 1:30 p.m. to change the job title of Molly Ellery.


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