New Mexico lawmakers beat clock to pass ridesharing

The New Mexico State Capitol building in Santa Fe

The New Mexico Legislature closed out its 2016 session Feb. 18, but not before passing legislation to legalize and regulate ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Just hours after the state Senate voted 33-5 to approve H.B. 168 and S.B. 254 early on the final morning of session, the House concurred with a 63-4 vote. The measure now moves to Gov. Susana Martinez, who has said she supports the bill.

If signed by the governor, the bill would define “transportation network companies” as a new kind of service. They would not be covered under the state Motor Carrier Act that regulates taxicabs, but would nonetheless be subject to oversight by the state Public Regulation Commission. In order to do business, TNCs would be required to pay for a $10,000 annual permit and perform background checks on prospective drivers.

The measure also sets a $1 million primary liability insurance requirement for death, bodily injury and property damage for any period from the moment a driver accepts a prearranged ride via a smartphone or other mobile app. During any period when the driver is logged in to the app, but not actively engaged in a ride, the minimums are $50,000 per-person and $100,000 per-incident for death and bodily injury, and $25,000 for physical damage. The insurance requirements may be met by the company, the driver or a combination of both.

Passage of the measure could mean Lyft’s return to New Mexico after an eight-month absence. Lyft exited the New Mexico market in May 2016 in the wake of an earlier set of rules for TNCs, currently being challenged by the state’s taxi companies, that were promulgated by the PRC under the Motor Carrier Act.

An earlier version of the bill passed the Republican-controlled state House by a 58-8 margin in early February. It would have explicitly defined ridesharing drivers as independent contractors, a subject on which the final version is silent. The bill had been stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate until the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Feb. 16 to pass an amended measure.

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