- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Ridesharing services are welcome to operate in Nebraska, but lawmakers also told service representatives at a hearing that the companies first must follow the state’s rules and obey regulators.

Members of the Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Thursday repeatedly asked representatives of San Francisco-based Lyft and Uber why they started operations in the state without Nebraska’s permission, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1pWOE98 ).

“You’re not doing yourself very much good in this situation,” Sen. Jim Smith told a representative of Uber.

Nebraska Public Service Commission investigators have begun ticketing ridesharing drivers for operating without a commission permit. The two companies use smartphone applications to link services to motorists and people who would pay for rides. Lyft and Uber representatives have said the services don’t fit the definition of a common carrier and thus don’t fall under commission jurisdiction.

Lyft attorney David Levy told the committee that Lyft has proposed a temporary operating agreement that would let it temporarily offer service in Nebraska until a long-term solution is found.

But commission member Anne Boyle said the deal was rejected because it “would have amounted to the commission agreeing to ignore the law and allow unregulated operations while waiting for the Legislature to provide a solution.”

The companies must decide whether to risk further run-ins with the commission as the regulatory process is addressed, said Sen. Heath Mello, who is crafting legislation while consulting with Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, a similar ride service.

Senators expressed concerns about safety and insurance liability, which the companies said have already been addressed with vehicle inspections, primary insurance coverage during rides and background checks.

Todd Snowber, of Omaha, said he’s given more than 400 rides since becoming a driver in June and said he trusts the system “to the point where I’ve used the application to have a driver pick up my 15-year-old son.”

However, the insurance industry has concerns that drivers aren’t properly covered while they are waiting for possible fares, such as outside a football game or after an event, said Kelly Campbell, vice president of state government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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