Clark County may backtrack on licenses for Uber, Lyft drivers

Clark County is back to square one in its effort to require business licenses for contracted drivers for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak has requested that a license ordinance unanimously approved Tuesday be reconsidered at its Dec. 1 meeting.

What the commission decides may also affect a proposal under consideration by the Las Vegas City Council to require business licenses for contracted drivers working within the city limits.

Sisolak’s request came after he received a memorandum dated Wednesday from county counsel Mary-Anne Miller. Miller’s memorandum details her interpretation of Assembly Bill 176, which established ride-hailing in Nevada, and an accompanying opinion from the state Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The bill and the Counsel Bureau opinion say a local government “may not impose on a transportation network company or any driver providing transportation services in affiliation with a transportation network company, a tax, fee or any other requirement unless it is generally applicable to any other business that operates within the jurisdiction of the local government.”

That means the ordinance, passed Tuesday after nearly 90 minutes of public hearings and debate, likely violates the state law.

Two ordinances addressing transportation network companies required contracted drivers to pay $25 for an annual county business license and for the companies to provide a list of approved drivers so that the county could cross-check whether drivers were licensed.

The measures were approved over objections of Uber and Lyft representatives.

After the meeting, Uber officials indicated they believed the county ordinance contradicts state law. While Attorney General Adam Laxalt didn’t weigh in on the controversy, Nevada Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, who pressed for the-ride hailing legislation in the Senate, accused the commission of ignoring state law and bowing to the interests of Clark County’s taxi industry.

Since September, Uber and Lyft have said they believed the county couldn’t require a business license after the county and the two companies began negotiating terms to operate at county-run McCarran International Airport.

Miller said in her memorandum that her opinion should not be construed as a prohibition a fee for picking-up and dropping off passengers at the airport, which is allowed under state law. Cab companies are charged for pickups, but not drop-offs. Because the cost of monitoring Uber and Lyft and providing a larger, separate space for their drivers, the county plans to charge ride-hail operations for both pickups and drop-offs.

Miller recommended keeping the license ordinance but deleting language on business licensing. But there could be additional discussion of Uber’s objection to requirements that ride hail companies provide names and identification of each of their drivers. The company said driver IDs are proprietary information that competitors could use.

Miller advised that requiring driver information is fair game, saying that under state law, “… nothing … prohibits an airport from requiring a (transportation network company) or driver to comply with airport permit requirements.”

Representatives of Uber said late Friday they would keep their options open pending further commission action.

Taxi industry representatives could not be reached for comment.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. 

 

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