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June 24, 2019

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Uber looks to public for support in lobbying Clark County

Uber Taxi Las Vegas Airport


Travelers arriving at McCarran International Airport make their way through the taxi queue in Las Vegas on Friday, March 1, 2013. Passengers will soon be able to hire rides from ride-hailing services at the airport.

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Commissioner Steve Sisolak speaks during a meeting of the Las Vegas Valley Water District Board Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.

In its ongoing clash with Clark County over regulations, Uber is turning to the public to bolster its lobbying effort, as ride-hailing companies are set to appear again before the county next week at a public hearing revisiting regulations.

In emails this week, Uber urged thousands of Las Vegas drivers and users to tell commissioners they want Uber to operate at McCarran International Airport in light of recent regulations that Uber claims were “an effort to block” access to the airport. On Tuesday, the CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group behind CES, also issued a statement imploring the commissioners “to enable ride-sharing services to operate effectively in Las Vegas.”

But Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission, said that while the county is revisiting some rules, when it comes to the airport, is unlikely to budge. He noted too that the most recent ride-sharing ordinance, approved at a meeting Nov. 17, had little to do with the airport, contrary to the correlation that Uber’s email campaign suggests.

“(Uber) hired a lot of high-profile, expensive and powerful lobbyists that will lobby for anyone if they pay them enough money,” Sisolak said on Monday. “I am not willing to succumb to the arm-twisting of their special-interest lobbyists. I’m going to do what I feel is best for the safety of the citizens and tourists of Clark County.”

While most of the rules for ride-hailing have been decided, one of the final remaining points of friction comes down to whether the county can require the ride-hailing companies to hand over a list of their drivers upon request.

In a regulation approved Nov. 17, the county required the companies to provide monthly lists of their drivers so county officials could confirm they had business licenses. This action was likely improper and after the regulation was approved, the county’s counsel said the provision was likely a violation of state law, which states that municipalities cannot create rules for ride-haling companies that are not generally applicable to other businesses.

With that finding, Sisolak has asked the commission to reconsider the stipulation at its Dec. 1 meeting.

But the airport has a separate process from the county for allowing ride-hailing in its jurisdiction. And whether the airport can request driver lists from Uber and Lyft is debatable and falls into a far more complicated gray area.

In its temporary permit for ride-hailing companies, the Department of Aviation already included language that would allow it to access a list of drivers upon request. Lyft agreed to those terms and is operating at McCarran. Because Uber opposed those terms, it is not operating at McCarran under a temporary permit.

The county’s counsel Mary Anne Miller also wrote that her memo, which argues for a reconsideration of the county ordinance, should not “be construed as a prohibition against the airport requesting driver information as part of the airport’s enforcement of a permit issued to a (ride-hailing company) allowing it utilize airport system facilities.”

So now the question turns to what language should be included in the airport’s permanent operating agreement, which will be discussed and considered by county commissioners at their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1. Will the commission retain language allowing it to request a drivers list or will it drop the stipulation from the permit?

Uber is against including language that allows the airport to request a list of drivers. Lyft, it appears, might also be unwilling to accept such language. "We encourage (the county) to avoid outdated, duplicative, and unnecessary requirements” when considering a permanent permit, Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson wrote in a statement.

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