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EDITORIAL: Why are state Democrats running interference for the taxi cartel?

You’ve got to hand it to Richard Carrillo, a Las Vegas Democrat who has served in the Assembly since 2010. How many lawmakers would eagerly volunteer as water boy for the taxi cartel?

Mr. Carrillo hasn’t done much of note during his four sessions in Carson City. Now he’s bucking to become the man who killed Uber and Lyft in Nevada. A legacy for the ages.

Senate Bill 226 originally mandated that ride-sharing drivers get state business licenses. It passed the upper house in April. But the Las Vegas cab bosses, hemorrhaging profits in the face of competition from Uber and Lyft, wanted more. Mr. Carrillo delivered late Friday, adding an amendment to the bill on the Assembly floor that would force drivers to quintuple their insurance coverage and obtain more permits.

This is rent-seeking protectionism gussied up as consumer protection. It’s a transparent and cynical ploy intended to cripple ride-sharing outfits in order to placate a powerful, self-interested political lobby.

“This proposed regulatory scheme is nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to recreate the old taxicab monopoly by eliminating ride-sharing services from the state,” warned a statement by the Internet Association. “If this proposal is passed, Nevada will become the only state in the nation to reject progress and better accessibility to transportation options for its residents.”

Far from looking out for the best interest of passengers, SB 226 is one of the most anti-consumer measures of the past decade. Since lawmakers in 2015 — with Republicans in control — opened the door to ride-sharing services, Nevadans have made their preferences stunningly clear, and that has meant big losses for the cab companies.

During the first 11 months of 2016, Clark County taxi outfits suffered a 16.2 percent drop in ridership compared with the previous year. The trend has continued into 2017. In addition, Uber and Lyft now generate more money for McCarran International Airport than do the cab drivers.

Members of the entrenched taxi cartel could revamp their business models to improve service — or, better yet, push to be freed from state and local transportation regulations that hinder their long-term growth. Instead, they prefer the lazy route, whispering in the ears of compliant lawmakers urging them to shackle their competitors to an oppressive administrative state.

To make matters worse, Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks reported this week that Assembly Democrats may try to ram this bill through without a hearing as sine die approaches. In fact, SB 226 deserves to be summarily executed and quickly entombed deep in the Nevada desert never again to see the light of day. But if the majority party insists on running popular ride-sharing services out of the state, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval should save them from their own foolishness and issue an immediate veto.

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