Nevada lawmakers reject plan to allow ride-hailing firms

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Lawmakers rejected a bill Friday that would regulate ride-hailing companies such as Uber in Nevada, with Democrats casting the deciding votes against the proposal for the second time this session.

Senators voted 13-7 for AB175, which would create regulations for so-called "transportation network companies" that allow people to hail a ride using a smartphone. The bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass because it included a tax that was projected to raise up to $100 million over the next two years.

"It's a disappointment," said Republican bill supporter Sen. James Settelmeyer. "Sadly, the taxicab cartels have won again. People have chosen not to fund the UNLV medical school. That's their decision."

Democratic Sen. Debbie Smith said she doesn't oppose ride-hailing and thinks the services will be regulated in Nevada by the time the session ends, but voted no because she had her doubts about the revenue projection and wanted legislative fiscal staff to verify the number before voting on the bill.

Settelmeyer said he was confident in the revenue projection, and pointed out that Democrats recently voted in favor of tax bill SB252 while acknowledging there was some uncertainty about the revenue it would yield.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson reminded senators that the Legislature needed to approve a general tax package, extend temporary sunset taxes and pass AB175 in the next month to meet Gov. Brian Sandoval's $7.4 billion proposed budget.

Smith said she resented Republicans saying Democrats needed to get on board with all the bills right away.

"We don't have to vote for anything," she told reporters after the vote. "I don't like anyone bossing me around."

Uber briefly operated in Nevada last fall before a judge issued a restraining order against the company, saying it wasn't following rules for taxicabs.

A proposal to create a separate framework for ride-hailing services has become one of the most-lobbied issues of the legislative session, with both cab companies and Uber hiring small armies of powerful lobbyists to push their cause.

Democrats cast the deciding votes in April against SB439, the original proposal regulating Uber. A new compromise bill that emerged Thursday with Democratic support, AB175, would impose a 3 percent tax on the total fare for rides through a cab company or a ride-hailing company.

That would have raised enough revenue to fill a budget gap, provide money for road construction through the state Highway Fund and put another $19 million toward building a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But the compromise had frayed by Friday. Only two Democrats supported the bill, which put it one vote short of the needed 14.

Senators can still reconsider the bill at a later date, in spite of its failure.

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