KNPR

New Bill Would Let Uber Roll In Nevada

uber-app.jpg

Uber smartphone app
Ariel Zambelich for NPR

A bill introduced this week would let Uber roll in Nevada with certain rules.

Uber, the company that developed a smartphone app to connect those who need a ride with drivers, could be back in business soon. But, if taxi and limousine companies are successful, Uber and other ride-sharing firms will be highly regulated.

Last fall, the ride-sharing company launched its service in Las Vegas and Carson City. Uber ran into trouble just three hours after it launched, and within weeks was shut down by a state court judge in Reno.

Uber stresses it is not a taxicab service but a platform for connecting drivers with riders. But, the company remains on the sidelines, lobbying Nevada lawmakers to pass new legislation to legitimize its business.

Earlier this week, Senate Bill 439 allowing Uber to operate legally in the state was introduced. Under the bill, services like Uber would register in Nevada as Transportation Network Companies and would face licensing and insurance requirements.

“The bill proposed by Senator James Settelmeyer … is intended to allow companies such as Uber and other Transportation Network Companies to operate in Nevada,” said. Kimberly Maxson-Rushton, executive director of the Livery Operators Association of Las Vegas. “But, it’s inconsistent with current rules that taxis and limousine companies abide by.”

Support comes from

Maxson-Rushton told KNPR’s State of Nevada the industry’s objection is “not to a new entrant into the market, but rather the difference in the regulatory and licensing treatment of similarly situated companies.”

Sen. Settelmeyer, a Republican from Minden, introduced the 20-page bill. He says it’s simply a question of whether you want Uber to operate in a regulated environment or in an unregulated manner.

Uber, based in San Francisco, reacted positively to Settelmeyer’s bill.

In a blog post on Uber’s website, an employee identified as Steve Thompson, said the bill shows “Nevada has embraced ridesharing.”

“This bill is an important step forward in creating a permanent regulatory framework for ridesharing in Nevada,” Thompson wrote. He said it’s time to put “more than 20,000 Nevadans back to work and encourage economic investment, small business growth, innovation and safety.

Taxi companies say Settelmeyer’s bill isn’t needed because the Nevada Transportation Authority is capable of managing a company like Uber.

Maxson-Rushton argued that taxi companies are required to maintain their fleets and drivers are full-time employees, while Uber uses independent contractor.

“We have high levels of insurance and other things to insure the safety of the public,” she said. Maxson-Rushton explained that taxi driver go through review by the state of Nevada, which is critical because it entails an FBI background check.  

“What is contemplated under the settlement by Senator Settelmeyer is that the TNC would do a cursory background check themselves and it really doesn’t have any automatic disqualifiers or standards,” she said. “While it requires the background check, it doesn’t prohibit someone who has had an especially violent background.”

Maxson-Rushton said the Livery Operators Association of Las Vegas has “no objection” to new companies coming onto the market. She said the only thing prohibiting Uber and other companies from coming into the market is not competition, but the cost of the regulatory oversight.

“The cost is something those companies simply don’t want to pay for,” Maxson-Ruston said.

Guests

Kimberly Maxson-Rushton, executive director, Livery Operators Association of Las Vegas

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap