Nevada Senate strikes compromise on ride-hailing regulations

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — State lawmakers have struck a deal on a contentious proposal to regulate Uber and other ride-hailing companies in Nevada, saying their new bill will raise $90 million to $100 million every two years to relieve a state budget deficit.

Senators agreed Thursday to amend AB175, a bill that changes rules about taxicab crash lawsuits, and add language that would regulate "transportation network companies." The companies allow people to hail a ride from independent drivers using a smartphone.

The Senate is expected to vote on the amended bill as soon as Friday.

"It's an example of compromise," said Sen. Aaron Ford, the Democratic minority leader. "No one's going to be fully satisfied."

The bill is a major breakthrough that comes about a month after the original bill — dubbed the most-lobbied of the session — died in a Senate vote after Democrats opposed it.

The new language removes a proposed 25-cent-per-ride surcharge in the original bill, SB439. It instead places a 3 percent tax on the total fare for rides hailed through a cab company or a transportation network company.

The first $5 million earned through those fees would go to the state Highway Fund for road construction projects. The rest would go to the general fund.

Representatives from the taxi industry were unhappy with the agreement. Kimberly Maxson-Rushton, executive director of the Livery Operators Association of Las Vegas, called the compromise "a thinly veiled attempt to trade critical public safety for the promise of millions of dollars in return."

Lawmakers learned this week that state tax streams are expected to yield about $150 million less than what's needed to fully fund Gov. Brian Sandoval's $7.4 billion, two-year budget. An amendment proposed Tuesday on a separate bill would raise the cigarette tax even further, but is expected to still fall short of the budget's needs.

Fresh revenue through the ride-hailing bill could help raise an extra $19 million toward a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Sandoval's budget set aside only a portion of the money requested by college officials.

"We are not leaving the session until we fund the UNLV medical school," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson. "The revenue from this bill will certainly help us do that."

The bill also addresses other concerns about companies like Uber and Lyft, according to Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer. It requires disclosures about insurance coverage and calls for an independent study to determine whether the kinds of background checks required by the ride-hailing companies are sufficient.

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