A committee reviewing the need for state boards and commissions won’t be making a recommendation on whether to terminate the Nevada Taxicab Authority for several weeks.
The six-member Sunset Subcommittee of the Legislative Commission took testimony from cab drivers, taxi company owners and Taxicab Authority board members in a videoconferenced session in Las Vegas and Carson City on Tuesday and will await separate reports from the industry and the authority administration before making any recommendations about the regulatory board that oversees Clark County’s taxi industry.
The subcommittee will have at least two more information-gathering sessions before determining whether it will suggest terminating or consolidating the authority board.
Terminating the board would take legislation at the 2017 session. Among the options under consideration are consolidating it within the Nevada Transportation Authority or turning responsibilities over to Clark County, which has expressed no interest in taking it.
The Executive Branch Audit Committee last month issued a scathing report accusing the taxi industry of overcharging customers with $47.3 million in excessive credit-card fees and fuel surcharges.
State officials said the decision for the subcommittee to review the Taxicab Authority was made before the audit findings were released.
The Taxicab Authority in January voted to not accept the audit report.
However, the Taxicab Authority administration has issued a request for proposals for a third-party review of the Taxicab Authority’s rate and allocation process. Simultaneously, the Livery Operators Association, comprised of taxi company industry owners, has commissioned Jeremy Aguero of Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis to address criticisms raised in the audit.
Most of the comments on the taxi industry received in 90 minutes of public testimony involved concerns from cab drivers that the Taxicab Authority board over-allocated the number of cabs on Southern Nevada streets, making it impossible for them to make a living wage.
Cab company owners requested the additional cabs in an effort to compete against swarms of new drivers from ride-hailing companies that were legalized in the state in September.
Drivers also said the decision to allow cab companies to charge $3 per credit-card transaction was detrimental to them because customers viewed the charge as high and ended up reducing their tips.
The chairman of the subcommittee had another pointed question about the credit-card fees. Sen. James Settelmeyer asked members of the Taxicab Authority why the $3 fee was approved in April 2010 when the Nevada Legislature only approved legislation authorizing a credit-card fee in June 2011.
The question went unanswered, and authority Chairwoman Ileana Drobkin said none of the current members of the authority board were on the panel in April 2010.
Transportation Authority Chairwoman Anne Wilkinson told subcommittee members that her agency has seen an increased workload with the oversight of ride-hailing companies added to its responsibilities. There was no indication the Transportation Authority is eager to take over the Taxicab Authority’s duties.
The subcommittee also heard testimony on the need for the Public Utilities Commission, which is under fire for decisions reached in rooftop solar policies. Several people who commented suggested that the Public Utilities Commission board be elected instead of appointed by the governor and be more representative of heavily populated Southern Nevada. The current commission has two members from Northern Nevada.
A decision on the commission also will come at a later meeting but subcommittee members seemed satisfied that the commission did not violate open-meeting laws as alleged in public comments.
Anne-Marie Cuneo, director of regulatory operations for the commission, said she believed many in the public have misunderstood the board’s operations because it presides over public meetings in utility policy and rate issues as well as adjudicates contested proceedings.
Subcommittee members suggested that the commission be more transparent in explaining its roles to the public at future meetings and hearings.
The subcommittee next meets Feb. 23 and is required to issue recommendations by June.