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Editorial: Hampering competitors

The market has spoken and the outcome is clear: Southern Nevada consumers love Uber and Lyft. The two ride-sharing companies have significantly altered the Las Vegas transportation market. To start the year, taxi rides fell 13.5 percent in the Las Vegas area, while the number of Uber and Lyft drivers is now double the cabbie count.

So naturally the local taxi cartel wants lawmakers to do something about it.

The Las Vegas Sun reported this week that cab companies plan to lobby next year to force Uber and Lyft to conduct FBI background checks on drivers, a requirement the ride-share services have resisted. They even pulled out of the Austin, Texas, market recently in a dispute over the issue.

The taxi interests maintain this all about consumer safety, of course. Sure it is. And the cow jumped over the moon. In reality, this is the last gasp spasm of a fossilized industry desperately seeking to use the power of the state to burden its competition.

Uber and Lyft already vet their drivers with third-party background checks as required under Nevada law. The FBI checks would be more expensive and time-consuming, potentially costing the companies millions with little evidence that they would be more effective at screening out trouble or improving service.

Since legislators sanctioned ride-sharing operations, “we haven’t seen any public-safety concerns that would lead me to believe” there is a need to revisit the hiring practices of Uber and Lyft, Republican Assemblyman Derek Armstrong told the Sun.

He’s right. But it’s not for lack of persistence on part of the cab barons, who are so eager to gin up controversy that they even hired a private investigator to catch rogue Uber drivers accepting cash for rides rather than operating through the phone app. The horror! We all know local hacks never go off meter or long-haul.

Lawmakers should resist any calls to hamstring these innovative providers. The market has spoken — even if the taxi moguls insist on covering their ears.

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