EDITORIAL: Legislature must let Uber operate in Nevada

If Nevada lawmakers are serious about attracting more high-tech companies to the state, about lifting the state’s entrepreneurial profile and appealing to the 21st-century workforce they claim they want to create, they’ll pass legislation that allows one of the country’s most innovative industries to operate here.

Last year, Nevada made national headlines when it became the first state to shut down ride-sharing service Uber, a better, more competitive, more responsive taxi service for the smartphone era.

Using an app-based platform, Uber and similar companies connect drivers to passengers, generally in less time and for less money than taxis. Uber is used in cities around the world by educated people who are accustomed to gaining new, cost-saving conveniences through technology — the kind of people the Las Vegas tourism industry covets as customers, the kind of people the region’s economic development officials want as workers. But when the Nevada Transportation Authority did the bidding of the taxicab industry and treated Uber drivers like wanted fugitives, it sent a powerful message outside the state: Nevada doesn’t like competition, and it doesn’t like change.

There was no getting around state taxi regulations. It would take a new state law to re-activate Uber in Nevada.

The potential remedy arrived Monday, when Senate Bill 439 was introduced in the Legislature. Far from allowing an unregulated, ride-sharing free-for-all, SB439 would create guidelines for smartphone-based transportation services.

Among the bill’s provisions: Ride-share companies must register with the state, obtain a business license and create a registered agent in Nevada; companies must provide information on their drivers and their vehicles to the state; drivers must be at least 19 years old, register their vehicles in Nevada, insure their vehicles and submit to a criminal background check every three years; and companies must inspect drivers’ vehicles.

Some provisions of SB439 seem odd and unnecessarily burdensome. For example, having ride-share companies report to the Public Utilities Commission. Uber is no utility. And requiring companies to keep trip sheets, driver and vehicle inspection records, complaint and resolution records and accident reports for three years is overkill. Of course, the Nevada Transportation Authority has already demonstrated such hostility to Uber — and such loyalty to the taxicab operators who want Uber kept out of the state — that it might not be capable of overseeing ride-share services fairly.

SB439 has its first hearing Monday before the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee at 8:30 a.m. To no one’s surprise, the taxicab industry opposes the legislation. A blog on Uber’s website called the bill “an important step forward in creating a permanent regulatory framework for ridesharing in Nevada.”

We know from Uber’s limited time operating in Nevada last year that hundreds of people want the opportunity to work as drivers to earn extra income — including many cabdrivers. And we know that many thousands of Nevadans and visitors want to use ride-share apps as passengers. Nevadans want the state and its economy to move forward. Lawmakers should pass SB439.

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