ALBUQUERQUE – After months of confusion over the regulation of ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft, a Republican House member wants lawmakers to reconsider a bill that could end a stalemate and allow the companies to operate legally in New Mexico.
The legal status of the companies has been in limbo since they began offering services in 2014. The companies say the state’s Motor Carrier Act doesn’t apply to them because they don’t operate as commercial taxi businesses.
Uber and Lyft offer an online service that allows people with cars to connect with people seeking rides, but traditional taxi companies say the ride-booking services still need to be regulated.
Legislation similar to what Rep. Monica Youngblood is proposing did not make it to the state Senate during the last session.
“I think Uber and Lyft could help in light of the drunken driving issues we have,” the Albuquerque Republican said. “The (Public Regulation Commission) kicked the can down the road. I think they are looking for direction.”
Following the last regular legislative session, the commission adopted guidelines separate from those that governed traditional taxi services so the ride-booking services could operate in the state.
San Francisco-based Lyft announced it was suspending operations in New Mexico and called the new requirements “onerous.”
The commission eventually dropped the rules, saying they would be revised, but the issue ended up going before the New Mexico Supreme Court, which has yet to make a ruling.
The Public Regulation Commission said this month Uber was still operating without legal authority in New Mexico by hiring drivers and transporting customers.
House Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said he thinks the legislation may pass this time around, especially since Youngblood has made some changes to her original proposal.
“I voted for it last time to keep the conversation going,” Egolf said. “But we don’t want to pull the rug all at once under our taxi companies who have made a lot of investment in our state.”
Egolf said lawmakers might also consider loosening rules for taxi companies.