- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A Senate committee approved a bill Thursday that would allow for ride-hailing companies such as Uber in Nevada, although members said they had reservations about some parts of the measure and wanted changes before it comes up for a vote of the full Senate.

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee considered so-called “transportation network companies” that allow people to hail a ride using a smartphone. They added an amendment requiring a 25-cent per trip surcharge that would support the Highway Fund and help pay for road construction.

Uber briefly operated in Nevada this fall before a state judge issued a restraining order, saying the company refused to follow regulations governing taxicab companies. Cab companies hired former governors Robert List and Richard Bryan to lobby against the bill on their behalf, saying Uber is wrongly seeking special treatment and trying to skirt laws designed to keep consumers safe.

Committee members raised questions about whether drivers know they’re independent contractors who should be paying business license fees to the state and whether ride-hailing company insurance is strong enough to protect passengers.

“Public safety issues are paramount,” said Republican Sen. Becky Harris. “We have a reputation of being one of the entertainment capitals of the world. We need to ensure that our visitors are safe.”

A vote on a related measure that deals with insurance for ride-hailing companies, SB440, was postponed.

But lawmakers also pointed out that Uber would fill a gap in transportation options, especially in outlying areas. They criticized cab companies for shuttling tourists between the airport and the Las Vegas Strip, but rarely venturing into the suburbs to cater to residents.

“I am deeply disappointed in the fact that we’ve never had a conversation about serving people,” said Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman, “until there was the threat of someone else coming in.”

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